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From the collection of the 

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o Prejinger 
v Jjibrary 

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San Francisco, California 


The New Deal Community Program 

Published under the direction of the American 
Historical Association from the income of the 
Albert J. Beveridge Memorial Fund. 

For their zeal and beneficence in creating this 
fund the Association is indebted to many citizens 
of Indiana who desired to honor in this way the 
memory of a statesman and historian. 

Tomorrow a New World: 


By Paul K. Conkin 


American Historical Association 


1959 by the American Historical Association 

All rights reserved, including the right to repro- 
duce this book, or portions thereof, in any form. 

First published 1959 


A cknowledgments 

AMONG the many people who assisted me in the preparation of 
this book, I especially want to thank Dr. Henry Lee Swint of Van- 
derbilt University for his guidance, criticism, and inspiration. I also 
received generous assistance from almost all members of the Van- 
derbilt University History Department, from the staffs of the Joint 
Universities Library in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Southwestern 
Louisiana Institute Library in Lafayette, Louisiana, and from Stanley 
Brown of the National Archives. The illustrations were possible be- 
cause of the aid and permission of the following journals: Landscape 
Architecture, Architectural Record, and Architectural Forum. 

P. K. C. 


Introduction 1 

PART ONE: Of Men and Their Ideas 

I The Land Our Refuge and Our Strength . . . .11 

II Bringing the Town to the Country 37 

III Bringing the Country to the Town 59 

IV From Acorn to Oak 73 

PART TWO: Of Bureaus and Bureaucrats 

V The Subsistence Homesteads Program . . . .93 

VI The Federal Emergency Relief Administration Communities 131 

VII America Resettled 146 

VIII The Community as a Locale for a New Society . . . 186 

IX The Old Society Reasserts Its Claims 214 

PART THREE: Of Individual Communities 

X Arthurdale An Experimental Community .... 237 

XI Jersey Homesteads A Triple Co-operative .... 256 
XII Penderlea Homesteads Something Less than a Rural 

Paradise 277 

XIII Granger Homesteads An Escape from Modernity . . 294 

XIV The Greenbelt Towns 305 

In Retrospect . 326 

Appendix 332 

Bibliographical Note 338 

Index . 341 



1 Penderlea Homesteads, North Carolina .... 283 

2 Greenbelt, Maryland ...... facing 312 

3 Greenhills, Ohio facing 314 

4 Greendale, Wisconsin ...... facing 316 


The New Deal Community Program 


THE depression that began in 1929 was a powerful catalyst in 
the modern American reaction against the idea of individualism and 
against the well-established institutions which gave that idea reality. 
This reaction was well under way by the end of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, but did not attain the proportions that it reached during the 
period of the New Deal. Never before had it so permeated the 
federal government or led to so many attempts at institutional reforms. 
The reaction was rooted in the vastly altered physical environment, 
which is generally attributed to a technological, a scientific, or an 
industrial revolution, and in a greatly altered intellectual environment, 
which was closely related to scientific advances and which quite com- 
pletely destroyed the intellectual foundations of nineteenth-century 
rationalism, liberalism, and individualism, even as it gave a philosophic 
basis for the modern social sciences. This reaction against individual- 
ism, or this movement toward a new collectivism, is not at all synony- 
mous with the New Deal, which reflected other, more traditional cur- 
rents of thought; it was, however, a major element in the New Deal, 
shaping a large part of its program. 

The most important American political tradition was rooted in an 
earlier reaction a reaction against political systems or social systems 
that suppressed and inhibited the individual, against oppressive 
governments, powerful monarchies, and the restrictive mercantilistic 


2 Tomorrow a New World 

economic system. This earlier reaction was most defiantly stated in 
the Declaration of Independence. It drew its metaphysical support 
from the current rationalism, which, while not repudiating authority 
itself, used a rationalized and all too perfect picture of the natural 
world as a new authority to defend the individual against either 
Church or monarch, the two most firmly entrenched threats to individ- 
ualism. Although in many ways a retreat from the near anarchy of the 
Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its first ten amend- 
ments implemented much of this individualistic reaction by its rigid 
separaton and division of powers and its guarantees of individual 
rights, despite the then powerful influence of those disciples of 
Hamilton who still retained a reverence for the stability and efficiency 
of European governments. This stress on individualism, on equal 
opportunities for all, on special privileges for none, on small, limited, 
and localized (and therefore nonoppressive ) governments was com- 
plemented, or perhaps almost necessitated, by an open, inviting, and 
largely rural environment. Strangely enough, the idea of individualism 
found further support in puritanical American Protestantism, which, 
though based on metaphysical suppositions that directly opposed the 
deism of the rationalists, tended to give the same support to individual 
aspirations. Out of the American Revolution and the revivalism of the 
early nineteenth century came a political system based on consistent 
natural law and a religion based on a highly supernatural God, yet 
both joined hands to become, in the minds of most Americans, coequal 
progenitors of a set of values which, perhaps inevitably, lost their 
revolutionary characteristics and, even as the environment changed, 
became traditional dogmas themselves. 

The individualistic tradition nineteenth-century liberalism found 
its most exact expression in the Democratic parties of Jefferson and 
Jackson, although heresy entered even Jefferson's administration. 
This liberalism was countered, though never in all its aspects, by the 
parties in the Hamiltonian traditions, which were nationalistic at the 
price of state rights, which, whether explicitly or no, embraced the 
idea of a qualitative distinction between men, and which were not 
averse to a strong central government representing the privileged 
interests of the country. The slavery controversy saw the individual- 
istic tradition most heartily defended in the South, but nevertheless 
weakened by the paradoxical acceptance of slavery. The Civil War 

Introduction 3 

ended with the ascendancy by force of the Hamiltonian tradition and 
the reign of privilege, which was already securely garbed in the verbal 
clothes of liberalism and individualism. It was opposed by the true 
Jeffersonians, by the "purists," who wanted a return to equal op- 
portunities for all and a limited government. The purists, most rigidly 
adhering to the liberal tradition, dominated the Democratic party 
during most of the years before Wilson's administration, but were 
reduced to a rather hapless minority by the time of the New Deal. 
With Theodore Roosevelt and his New Nationalism, the beginnings 
of a new tradition found its first important, though never clear-cut, 
political expression. It was the modern, collective reaction against 
individualism and was to grow rapidly. 

Industrialization, centralization, and urbanization created a new 
society that was alien to the liberal and individualistic tradition. 
Concentrations of people, wealth, and power made necessary new 
limitations on individual freedom. A new class, the unpropertied 
proletariat, became large enough to be politically important. The very 
existence of the new society had partially depended upon governmental 
privileges on corporate rights, franchises, land grants, and tariffs. 
Ideas such as free enterprise, private property, equality of opportunity, 
and competition became almost meaningless to many men, even 
though completely accepted. At the same time those ideas became 
crutches for the use of a privileged few. The purists saw this and 
fought back. They wanted to return to decentralization in govern- 
ment and in the economy, to equal opportunities and really free enter- 
prise, to pure competition, and to an age long past. They continued 
to believe, and do yet today, that the liberal tradition remains valid. 
In a polluted, indistinct form the liberal tradition remains the domi- 
nant political ideology in America today. 

Meanwhile the problems of the new environment were being ap- 
proached from a new angle, first in Europe and then in America, 
where the individualistic tradition was most firmly entrenched. The 
new environment was embraced, not repudiated. Industrialism, urban- 
ization, concentration, and centralization were not of necessity evils. 
But for the new environment new institutions were advocated in order 
to render the new society more democratic. It had to be controlled 
by the masses, democratized, collectivized. Governments of privilege 
had to be replaced, not by less government, but by governments 

4 Tomorrow a New World 

of all the people functioning, efficient governments, capable of 
regulating and controlling the economy in such a way as to insure 
a rewarded honesty for all men. This was a new and disruptive 
political creed, ranging from Marxian Socialism to its mildest form, 
interventionism, which predominated in the United States. 

The new political creed sprang, most obviously, from the problems 
created by the new environment, but it was either partly rooted in, 
or else created for itself, conducive philosophies. Since the rational- 
istic and liberalistic tradition was so often warped and molded to fit 
the needs of the new privileged groups, especially the capitalists, it 
had to be refuted and replaced, even though the purists were some- 
times acknowledged as friends because of a common enemy. The 
Newtonian world view, essential to the naturalistic rationalism, 
swayed before evolution and practically succumbed before relativity. 
Marx, with his historical interpretation and complete materialism, 
provided a dogmatized philosophy that was seized upon by many 
collectivists. But, in the United States, the growth of pragmatism and, 
in particular, the ideas of John Dewey were the most important intel- 
lectual supports for interventionism and a degree of collectivism. The 
new philosophy broke completely with all past authorities, placed 
man in a neutral universe, and gave him a method or a tool, radical 
empiricism, for coping with his environment. It was idealistic in its 
view of man, had a high moral content, was extremely practical, and 
made a religion of democracy. It thus had much that could be related 
to traditional liberalism, even as it destroyed the foundations of that 
liberal tradition. When vulgarized and widely disseminated, few 
noticed how thoroughly it destroyed or undermined some of the 
most cherished ideas in American life, even including the theological 
content of Christianity. Very important also, it was relatively new and 
untried in the social realm, lacked the conviction of a less intellectual- 
ized and more dogmatized faith, and had unexplored implications to 
mankind and to the whole structure of Western European civilization, 
which had always been based on certain traditions and on some degree 
of authority. This radical empiricism, separated from metaphysical 
certainties and from past authority, provided the framework for most 
of the modern social sciences, including all of, or significant groups 
within, the disciplines of economics, sociology, psychology, political 
science, and anthropology. It greatly influenced educational theory, 

Introduction 5 

historiography, and jurisprudence. It thrived most purely in the col- 
leges and universities, but affected the lives of almost everyone. It 
is extremely significant that such a large number of professors, who 
were familiar with or openly espoused this pragmatism, were active 
in the New Deal. 

At the time of the election of 1932 three important political phi- 
losophies were vying for recognition, although most individuals rep- 
resented mixtures of two or three. One philosophy was that of the 
purists, who still believed in Jeffersonian liberalism but saw through 
the superficial espousal of this liberalism by business groups. The 
purists were anticapitalistic, antimonopolistic, antibureaucratic, and 
were for state rights, governmental economy, decentralization, and 
restored competition. Another philosophy was that of the modern 
Hamiltonians, who welcomed a centralized, functioning government, 
but who, out of sincere conviction or from self-interest, wanted the 
government to represent the "best" class of people, who distrusted the 
"vulgar" masses, and who wanted the government to perform certain 
services for the dominant, business class, believing that such favoritism 
would eventually benefit every group. They were more and more using 
the iconography of Jeffersonianism to win wide support to their 
viewpoint. The other philosophy was advocated by those who desired 
a democratization of privilege or who, in other terms, wanted to use 
Hamiltonian methods to serve Jeffersonian purposes. They wanted 
more and more socialization and more intervention on the part of the 
national government, which meant less and less individual freedom 
but more economic security. Their ideas had received verbal sup- 
port from Theodore Roosevelt, had been advocated by minority 
parties, were partially implemented by a professing Jeffersonian, 
Woodrow Wilson, but had never been dominant in national politics. 
They were anticapitalistic, but not anti-industrial. Their views were 
more representative of labor and of urban thought than of rural 

The New Deal was a grand mixture of political faiths that managed 
to come together for a considerable, if inconsistent, program. In his 
earliest campaign speeches Franklin D. Roosevelt acclaimed Jeffer- 
sonian ideas, even as he advocated a precedent-breaking program of 
national planning and even as he showed that he was distinctly 
sympathetic to business. Not so charmingly eclectic were many of 

6 Tomorrow a New World 

his advisers and followers, ranging from Hugh Johnson, who rep- 
resented a business point of view, to Rexford G. Tugwell, an urban 
liberal, pragmatist, collectivist, and somewhat of a revolutionary. 
Yet the early program of the New Deal was seemingly an almost com- 
plete vindication of the anti-individualistic, anti-Jeffersonian, collec- 
tivist approach. The emphasis on economic planning, the accretion of 
federal governmental powers, the declining importance of local and 
state governments, the privileges granted labor and farmers, the 
broad controls over banking, finance, and business, all indicated a 
trend away from Jeffersonianism. Collectivist ideas were made more 
explicit than ever before. Still there was no complete victory for the 
new ideas. Many of the programs were enacted entirely because of 
the desperation of the depression and were later repudiated. Many 
were supported by the old liberals as second best. Countertendencies 
were evident. Early planning measures were largely accepted by big 
business or by big farmers because of hopes for control or a desire 
for economic gains. Most important, the ideological foundations of 
the new policies were never completely understood and, except for 
darkest depression days, never broadly embraced. Jeffersonian ideas, 
used sincerely or prostituted to self-interest, still claimed the greatest 
loyalty. The older ideas were more and more asserted by Congress 
after 1937, with both the purists and the Hamiltonians joining in an 
alliance against collectivism. Individualism, while apparently slowly 
losing its hold in the minds of men, even as the physical world denied 
it any such free expression as it had in the past, was still king on a 
well-shaken but still-standing throne. 

One of the smaller programs of the New Deal was the construction 
of approximately 100 communities. Yet, from a standpoint of con- 
flicting ideas, these communities represented one of the more sig- 
nificant programs. They were a focal point of ideological clashes. 
Although their initiation was much influenced by a reactionary, quasi- 
Jeffersonian agrarianism, their development reflected one of the most 
open breaks with the individualistic tradition in American history. 
The very word "community" became a synonym for a form of collec- 
tivism and an antonym of individualism. These communities were to 
be examples of a new, organic society, with new values and institu- 
tions. Their story is a fascinating adventure in idealism and disillusion- 

Any account of the New Deal communities is confusing because of 

Introduction 7 

the many governmental agencies that were involved in their develop- 
ment or management. In one sense the story of these communities is 
a part of many stories, for in many cases they were closely related 
to other activities carried on within the same agency that fathered or 
managed them. The term "community" is the one unifying concept, 
but it is a term with considerable content. The first communities were 
planned and initiated by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads in 
the Department of the Interior. This was the only New Deal agency 
devoted exclusively to community building. Almost simultaneously 
the Federal Emergency Relief Administration initiated a group of 
communities as one small aspect of its relief program. In 1935 all but 
three of the communities initiated by these two agencies were turned 
over to a newly created, independent agency, the Resettlement 
Administration, which itself initiated several additional communities. 
Yet the communities represented only about a third of the total 
program of the Resettlement Administration. Three of the Federal 
Emergency Relief Administration communities were retained by 
the Works Progress Administration until 1939. In January, 1937, the 
Resettlement Administration became a part of the Department of 
Agriculture. In September, 1937, it was replaced by the Farm Se- 
curity Administration. Neither change materially affected the com- 
munities. The final disposition of some of the communities was carried 
out by the Farmers' Home Administration, the Federal Public Hous- 
ing Authority, and the Public Housing Administration, but by the 
time they came under these agencies the whole community program 
had been repudiated. 

These 100 communities, aside from reflecting a conscious break 
with individualism, remain monuments to the reforming zeal of their 
creators. In an age of depression, when many believed that economic 
progress had reached its limits, the reformers yet reflected a spirit of 
optimism and high idealism. In an age of cynicism many of the re- 
formers would be considered naive. Even so, an oddly spaced group 
of small white homes dotting a West Virginia hillside or an imagina- 
tively planned little city sitting in the midst of a very green belt of 
Maryland forests, despite all the misdirected or wasted effort that 
went into their creation, will remain vivid reminders of a time, not 
so long past, when Americans still could dream of a better, more 
perfect world and could so believe in that dream that they dared set 
forth to realize it, unashamed of their zeal. 

Part One 


>t I 

The Land Our Refuge and 
Our Strength 

FOR many people in the United States of 1932 and early 1933 
hope for an early economic recovery, overstimulated by too many 
optimistic predictions, turned to deep despair. As men desperately 
searched for security, the tinsel trappings of the machine age seemed 
to tarnish. The glittering lights of the great city now only too often 
bared men's aimless, hopeless wanderings in search of employment. 
The powerful urban magnet, which had drawn millions of farmers 
into its enticing fold during the twenties, had lost much of its attrac- 
tion. As progress slowed, many men turned their eyes back to the land, 
to the old homestead, to security, to a memory. The deserted farms, 
the mountain shacks, the tenant cottages became repeopled. Most 
often the country-bound pilgrim found his dream of a pastoral haven 
to be of the illusionary nature of most dreams. The grim shadow 
of depression also darkened the rural scene, but in the cities men still 
spoke longingly of the land. In the tremendous back-to-the-land 
sentiment of the depression the idea of subsistence farming, or of 
subsistence homesteads, which was as ancient as farming itself, be- 
came a unifying concept that bound together a multitude of individuals 
with widely divergent philosophies. Industrialists, agriculturalists, 
land economists, agrarians, physical culturists, politicians, economists, 
social workers, and city planners all had schemes for moving the 


12 Tomorrow a New World 

unemployed and discontented back to the soil. Many thought in 
terms of temporary relief; some envisioned a return to a simple past; 
a few dreamed of a new order for society. Out of this confusion of 
ideas, if not of tongues, came the first New Deal communities. A 
few men took a term, "subsistence homesteads," and converted it into 
a physical reality and in so doing led the national government into 
the role of community building. The reality could please only a few of 
those who had acclaimed a term, or an abstract concept, but neverthe- 
less it was their advocacy of a term that made the reality possible. 

The back-to-the-land movement was not entirely a child of the de- 
pression. With less urgency it had existed long before the depression 
and had other justification than temporary relief. The United States 
began its history as an agrarian nation and, in its folkways, had largely 
remained one. From Jefferson and his fellow democrats, especially 
John Taylor of Caroline, the United States inherited a philosophy 
of agrarianism. 1 The virtues of agricultural pursuits, the greater po- 
litical responsibility of a landowning citizenry, and the dangers of 
urbanism and of a propertyless proletariat remained axioms for many 
twentieth-century Americans. Agrarian ideas and ideals continued to 
color Americans political utterances, though hardly in the consistent 
form voiced by John Taylor. At times this agrarianism found partial 
expression in the nostalgic, romanticized memories of the many country 
boys who came to town to live or in the city boys who read and 
sang of rural delights. For discontented idealists, who could see only 
the ills and ugliness of a complex industrial society, the country often 
became an avenue of escape, an avenue to nature and to simplicity. 
These expressions of what was most often only a nebulous idea can 
more easily be studied in the context of specific back-to-the-land move- 
ments, whether originating as relief measures in times of depression 
or in a convinced agrarian philosophy. 

It is almost anomalous to talk of a back-to-the-land movement be- 
fore the Civil War, for an overwhelming majority of Americans lived 
on the land. The line between town and country was often far from 
sharp. Regardless of how effective the frontier was as a safety valve, 

1 Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb 
(Library ed., 20 vols.; Washington, 1904), II, 229-230; John Taylor, An Inquiry 
into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States ( Fredericks- 
burg, Va., 1814). 

The Land 13 

it was an ever-present reality in the minds of the people, who strove 
mightily for a more liberal land policy. Soldiers, after each war, had 
received land as a reward for their service. The Union veterans were 
to profit from the Homestead Act of 1862. 2 Yet, in the period from 
1820 to 1850, scores of communitarian colonies were founded in 
America. Most of these represented a desire for a peaceful separation 
from an increasingly complex and, to some, sinful world. 3 All were 
concrete attempts to make real the perennial longing for a Promised 
Land, "into which, like Moses, man will never be permitted to enter, 
but which gives rise to this heroic and never-ending adventure that 
is none the less pathetic." 4 The largest number of communities 
originated in the socialist philosophies of Robert Owen and Charles 
Fourier, both of whom reacted against the evils of industrialism and 
of the economic order. Both envisioned a new communal order to be 
realized in an agricultural setting or in a return to the land. 5 

The other important motivation for communistic experiments was 
religious. The Shaker colonies, the Rappite communities, the Amana 
villages, and the Oneida colony represented attempts to preserve 
certain religious ideas in self-contained communities. Of all the 
religious communities, those founded by the Mormons were by far 
the most numerous and influential. The Mormons were the first 
irrigators in the United States, laboriously developing by hand many 
of the techniques later used by the Bureau of Reclamation. 6 Through 
Milburn L. Wilson, the first Director of the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads in the Department of the Interior, the Mormon com- 
munities were to influence directly the government-sponsored sub- 
sistence homesteads. 7 

2 Russell Lord and Paul H. Johnstone, eds., A Place on Earth: A Critical Ap- 
praisal of Subsistence Homesteads (Washington, 1942), pp. 4-5. 

3 R. W. Murchie, Land Settlement as a Relief Measure ( Day and Hour Series 
no. 5, University of Minnesota; Minneapolis, 1933), p. 6. 

4 Charles Gide, Communist and Cooperative Colonies, trans, by Ernest F. Row 
(London, 1930), p. 18. See also Arthur E. Bestor, Backwoods Utopias: The Sec- 
tarian and Owenite Phases of Communitarian Socialism in America ( Philadelphia, 
1950); Alice Felt Tyler, Freedom's Ferment: Phases of American Social History 
to 1860 (Minneapolis, 1944). 

6 Gide, Communist and Cooperative Colonies, pp. 22-23. 
6 Alfred R. Golze, Reclamation in the United States (New York, 1952), p. 46. 
7 Milburn L. Wilson, Farm Relief and Allotment Plan (Day and Hour Series 
no. 2, University of Minnesota; Minneapolis, 1933), p. 49. 

14 Tomorrow a New World 

The Mormon farm village, as perfected in Utah, represented a 
large-scale departure from the isolated farm pattern that had char- 
acterized American rural development. Unlike isolated farmers, the 
Mormon villagers enjoyed a rich social life, could more easily acquire 
such amenities as electricity, telephones, and running water, paid less 
for their roads, automatically escaped the small one-room school, easily 
developed responsible government, and, as most often argued by 
exponents of subsistence homesteads, could combine small manufactur- 
ing and handicrafts with their farm work. Their village form of settle- 
ment has been attributed to a harsh environment, to a need for pro- 
tection against Indians, to a necessity of sharing irrigation works, to 
loneliness, and to a common religion. Back of these practical factors 
was the vision of Joseph Smith, who planned a City of Zion while the 
Mormons were still in Ohio. It was not only to be the home of the 
Mormons, but was to be the future dwelling place of the soon-returning 
Savior. Possibly inspired by the biblical New Jerusalem, by Robert 
Owen's New Harmony, and by the current rectangular land survey, 
his plan provided for large ten-acre blocks, each containing twenty 
families. In 1847 Salt Lake City was settled with ten-acre blocks, 
but with many farm families receiving as much as two whole blocks. 
Other Mormon farm villages provided one- or two-acre subsistence 
plots for each settler. 8 

After the Civil War back-to-the-land schemes appeared with in- 
creasing frequency. In 1870 Horace Greeley promoted a successful 
land colony at what became Greeley, Colorado. This colony utilized 
irrigation and became fairly successful, although it was not back-to- 
the-land for the destitute, since the colonists had to have money to 
attain membership. 9 During the depression which began in 1873, 
Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul developed five agricultural 
colonies for the Catholic urban poor on land purchased from the 
railroads in Nebraska and Minnesota. Partly because of the isolated 
farm method of settlement in the United States, the Catholic Church, 
with a scarcity of priests, had long advised Catholic immigrants to 
remain in the cities where they could be under the watchful care of the 

8 Lowry Nelson, The Mormon Village: A Pattern and Technique of Land Settle- 
ment (Salt Lake City, 1952), pp. 10-13, 15, 25-38, 96-101; Golze, Reclamation 
in the United States, p. 8. 

9 Golze, Reclamation in the United States, p. 10. 

The Land 15 

Church. These agricultural colonies founded by Archbishop Ireland 
marked the beginning of a rural movement in the Catholic Church, 
partly caused by the fact that city Catholics were believed not to be 
reproducing themselves. 10 

The much-publicized Creeley colony and the work of Archbishop 
Ireland helped influence three congressmen to propose government- 
supported colonies for the relief of the Eastern workingman. In 
October, 1877, General Nathaniel P. Banks, Representative from 
Massachusetts, introduced a bill which would have created a private 
colonizing corporation under government supervision. Under the 
provisions of this bill, deserving, unemployed laborers were to be 
transported and settled in groups of twenty-five upon the public lands, 
receiving $400 in credit. The bill, which was never reported from 
committee, provided for an appropriation of $10,000,000, one-half in 
bonds and one-half in greenbacks, the latter inflationary measure be- 
ing one of the objects of the bill. 11 Also in October, 1877, Hendrick 
B. Wright, Democrat-Greenbacker Representative from Pennsylvania, 
introduced an almost similar colonization bill, which was to be ad- 
ministered by the Public Land Office. 12 Wright, as a member of the 
Committee on the Public Lands, spared no efforts to get his bill en- 
acted. He secured the support of Terence V. Powderly, head of the 
Knights of Labor, and solicited petitions from over 20,000 laborers. 
As a result of his efforts he was scorned in newspapers, branded a 
Pennsylvania communist, and forced to see his bill defeated by a 
vote of 210 to 23. 13 

By far the most intricate and detailed colonization bill ever intro- 
duced in the United States Congress was sponsored in 1878 by General 
Benjamin F. Butler, Representative from Massachusetts. Under the 
direction of the army, large groups of settlers were to be located on 
the western frontier in close proximity to army posts. Quite ap- 
propriately for Butler, the bill excluded any settlers from any of the 

10 Raymond P. Witte, Twenty-five Years of Crusading: A History of the National 
Catholic Rural Life Conference (Des Moines, 1948), pp. 1-2. 

11 Albert V. House, Jr., "Proposals of Government Aid to Agricultural Settle- 
ment during the Depression of 1873-79," Agricultural History, XII (1938), 47; 
United States, Congressional Record, 45th Cong., 1st Sess., 1877, p. 169. (Future 
references to the Congressional Record will be cited as C.R. ) 

House, "Proposals of Government Aid," p. 48. 

13 Ibid., pp. 52-60; C.R., 45th Cong., 3d Sess., 1879, p. 771. 

16 Tomorrow a New World 

Southern states. An appropriation of $420,000,000 in greenbacks was 
to be used to resettle on 45,000 sections exactly 333,333 people from 
the unemployed or insufficiently paid laboring class. 14 Butler argued 
that this unemployed group, then a labor surplus, could become a 
prosperous class of consumers and producers when placed upon the 
land. Each settler was to receive free transportation, $1,250 in equip- 
ment, and a forty-acre plot of land containing exactly six and two- 
thirds acres of timber. The bill required a meticulous land survey 
before locating a colony and prescribed a detailed list of equipment 
for each settler, including the seed to plant and the amount of lumber 
to carry along. An army physician was to be detailed to each colony. 
Butler's bill was never reported from committee despite the great 
effort that went into its preparation. 15 

The demands for government-directed resettlement of Eastern 
laboring classes were repeated in 1885, a year of heavy unemployment 
and of business recession. At a special hearing on the relation of 
capital and labor conducted by the Senate Committee on Education 
and Labor, the Reverend Heber Newton, a Christian Socialist, stated: 
"As a practical aid to the re-establishing of better relations between 
labor and land, I would suggest the organization by the National 
Government of colonization. Colonization has always been the natural 
relief of overcrowded centers. In this way surplus labor has gone back 
to the soil." 16 He believed that the masses of workers who most needed 
colonization were also the ones who most needed guidance and super- 
vision in their resettlement. For the government to relieve the East 
and build up the West by leading the dull ones "back to the land" and 
making them self-supporting was, to him, "a wise work for the state." 17 
At the same hearings, Fred X. Heissinger, a landscape and garden 
engineer from New York City, urged the states and the national 
government to co-operate in establishing colonies and "founding new 
homes and towns in the West and South" for emigrants and laborers. 
He wanted to form a company or an association to find land, establish 

14 C.R., 45th Cong., 2d Sess., 1878, pp. 4381-4382. 

15 House, "Proposals of Government Aid," p. 50; C.R., 45th Cong., 2d Sess., 
1878, pp. 4381-4382. 

18 Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Investigation of the Relations 
between Labor and Capital, 48th Cong., 1885, p. 575. 
17 Ibid. 

The Land 17 

model farms, finance purchases, secure clear deeds, and provide farm 
machinery. 18 

Around 1890 a school garden movement was started in several 
cities, usually for the purpose of promoting the physical, mental, and 
moral growth of children. After the depression beginning in 1893 
this movement was expanded and its leaders began to see in it a 
method of permanently guiding young people back to the country, 
thus removing the surplus in the cities. One ever-present assumption 
of the back-to-the-land movement was that there were too many 
people in the cities for complete employment. The school garden move- 
ment was based on the assumption that many city children would 
grow attached to agriculture, as well as learn its arts, and would 
migrate to farms when they became adults, relieving the labor surplus 
in cities. By 1906 thirty-five cities had school gardens, while many 
normal schools introduced courses in gardening. 19 

In the depression that began in 1893 the mayor of Detroit originated 
the idea of vacant-lot cultivation as a relief measure for the idle poor. 
As a temporary measure it was tried in twelve or more cities with 
excellent results. In Philadelphia, in 1896, it had a new birth under 
the leadership of R. F. Powell, who was "an enthusiastic single- 
taxer." 20 By 1904 over 800 people were cultivating gardens in Phil- 
adelphia's vacant lots. Powell saw his movement as a training school, 
whose graduates would go to the country as farmers. Eventually, 
Powell believed, the vacant-lot gardens would open people's eyes to 
what he believed to be the root iniquity of the existing economic sys- 
tem, the unearned increment. Under single-tax inspiration, a similar 
vacant-lot association was developed in New York, and one was 
planned for Cincinnati. 21 

In 1898, to combat what it considered the greatest evil of the day, 
the drift of population into the cities, the Salvation Army began 
colonizing the destitute of the cities. Utilizing $150,000 raised by 
bond issues, the Army started farm colonies at Fort Amity, Colorado; 
Fort Romie, California; and Fort Herrick, Ohio. At Fort Amity the 

18 Ibid., pp. 1340-1352. 

"Florence F. Kelly, "An Undertow to the Land: Successful Efforts to Make 
Possible a Flow of the City Population Countryward," Craftsman, XI ( 1906), 308. 

20 R. F. Powell, "Vacant Lot Gardens vs. Vagrancy," Charities, XIII (1904), 26. 

21 Kelly, "An Undertow to the Land," pp. 302-307. 

18 Tomorrow a New World 

fourteen original settlers were sold twenty-acre plots on twelve-year 
terms and were lent money for seed and livestock on five-year terms. 
Many settlers were so poor that transportation had to be provided. 
Despite difficulties with poor soil, Amity was a success, containing 
thirty-two families by 1906, each with an average worth of about 
$1,200. The colonists settled compactly and had the advantage of 
social life and mutual help. Fort Romie was a complete failure at first, 
but after the installation of irrigation works it became more prosperous 
than Fort Amity. 22 Fort Herrick was smaller and was used primarily 
as a home for inebriates. The increased land values in each settlement 
more than protected the Salvation Army's investment, although about 
$50,000 in development costs was not charged to the settlers and was 
considered a loss by the Army. In all cases the Army carefully 
screened prospective settlers, probably thus insuring the success of 
their ventures. 23 Commander Frederick St. G. de L. Booth-Tucker 
of the United States Salvation Army, who had observed colonization 
methods in other countries, believed scientific colonization would soon 
take its place beside scientific agriculture. 24 

After 1907 the back-to-the-land movement became a sizable popular 
crusade. In that year Bolton Hall, inspired in part by the vacant-lot 
movement, published his very popular Three Acres and Liberty. 25 The 
next year he followed with A Little Land and a Living. 26 Both books 
described intensive farming on small plots, as well as advertised the 
advantages of rural life. They were also handbooks on subsistence 
farming, giving needed practical information. These books were fol- 
lowed by many magazine articles giving advice to landward-bound 
cityfolk. Country Life published twenty-four such articles from 1910 
to 1912 under the general title "Cutting Loose from the City." Typical 
of the articles are the following descriptive titles: "How Two Young 
People One an Invalid Found Health and a Competence by Ex- 

22 Ibid., pp. 299-300. 

23 Henry Rider Haggard, The Poor and the Land, Being a Report on the Salva- 
tion Army Colonies in the United States and at Hadleigh, England, with a Scheme 
of National Land Settlement and an Introduction (London, 1905), pp. vii, 116- 
117; Kelly, "An Undertow to the Land," pp. 300-302. 

24 Frederick St. G. de L. Booth-Tucker, "Farm Colonies of the Salvation Army," 
in U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Labor, Bulletin, XL VIII 
(1903), 1001-1003. 

25 Bolton Hall, Three Acres and Liberty (London, 1907). 

26 Bolton HaU, A Little Land and a Living (New York, 1908). 

The Land 19 

changing City Life for a Little One-acre Home in the Country (near 
the Maryland line)"; 'How One Woman, Without Family or Means, 
and Without any Previous Agricultural Experience, Has Laid the 
Foundation for an Old Age of Peace and Plenty, and at the Same 
Time Added a Present Zest to Life, by Getting 'Back to the Land' "; 
"How One Young Couple, Without Capital, Have Really Cut Loose 
and Are Enjoying Life While They Pay for Their Maine Farm on the 
Installment Plan, Making Use of Their Former Professions to Help 
Out Occasionally in Lieu of a Bank Account"; "How a Married Couple, 
Both in Ill-Health, with Three Children, and in Debt, Have Made 
Good on a Mississippi Farm. Plenty of Similar Openings in the 
South." 27 

The most interesting result of the popularization of small, intensive 
farms was the Little Landers colonies in California. William E. 
Smythe, a publisher and an expert on irrigation, adopted the motto 
"A little land and a living" and organized a group of families to settle 
upon small holdings of one to five acres. 28 His idea was that by con- 
centrating on such farm industries as poultry raising, by growing 
all needed food, and by a system of co-operation, a group of families 
could live well on their small acreages and, at the same time, achieve 
a most excellent social life. The first group, which was organized in 
1908, established their colony on 550 acres at San Ysidro, two miles 
from the Mexican border and near San Diego. The land was controlled 
by Little Landers, Incorporated. On rather poor soil, the settlers ex- 
pected a moderate living, security, and freedom. Co-operation was 
soon realized and a town-meeting type of government was estab- 
lished. 29 The creed of Smythe and the Little Landers was as follows: 


That individual independence shall be achieved by millions of men and 
women, walking in the sunshine without fear of want. 

27 For the complete list of articles see L. O. Bercaw, A. M. Hannay, and 
E. M. Colvin, Bibliography on Land Settlement, with Particular Reference to 
Small Holdings and Subsistence Homesteads (Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 
Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication no. 172; Washington, 1934), 
pp. 36-37. 

28 "Land Settlement in California, 5 * Transactions of the Commonwealth Club 
of California, XI (1916), 425-426. 

29 Henry S. Anderson, "The Little Landers' Land Colonies: A Unique Agricul- 
tural Experiment in California," Agricultural History, V (1931), 140-142. 

20 Tomorrow a New World 

That in response to the loving labor of their hands, the earth shall answer 
their prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread." 

That they and their children shall be proprietors rather than tenants, 
working not for others but for themselves. 

That theirs shall be the life of the open the open sky and the open heart 
fragrant with the breath of flowers, more fragrant with the spirit of fel- 
lowship which makes the good of one the concern of all, and raises the in- 
dividual by raising the mass. 30 

San Ysidro failed to vindicate Smythe's faith or to live up to the 
Little Landers creed. Plagued by dissension, a disastrous flood, and 
plots too small for economic security, the Little Landers colony was 
dissolved in 1918, although San Ysidro later became a prosperous 
town. Two similar Little Landers colonies, Los Terrenitos and Hay- 
ward Heath, likewise failed. In February, 1919, Smythe gave up his 
promotional work with the Little Landers and joined Franklin K. 
Lane, Secretary of the Interior, to help Lane promote a plan to extend 
the reclamation movement to the whole United States and to provide 
farm colonies for returning servicemen. 31 

For the purpose of placing the poor of the cities upon the land, 
the National Forward to the Land League was founded by Mr. and 
Mrs. Haviland H. Lund in 1911. The Lunds believed that privately 
directed colonization on the land was necessary to make the country 
immune to "the red virus." The National Forward to the Land League 
was an incorporated, nonprofit agency to secure private financial sup- 
port to settle, in groups of fifty, the urban poor in agricultural colonies. 
The League solicited loans from businessmen, distributed government 
information pamphlets to interested colonizers, sponsored lectures 
in New York City by members of the College of Agriculture, Cornell 
University, developed plans for garden cities and part-time farming 
colonies for industrial workers, asked for and allegedly received sup- 
port from such influential congressmen as Warren G. Harding, and 
secured the services of Harvard's political economist, Thomas Nixon 
Carver, as director of colonization, but never placed a single colonist 
upon the land. 32 

90 Ibid., p. 142. ^Ibid., pp. 142-150. 

82 Haviland H. Lund, "Redistribution of the Labor Now Employed in Pro- 
ducing War Supplies," American Economic Review, Supplement to vol. VII ( 1917), 
239-240; House Committee on Labor, Hearings on H.R. 11055, H.R. 11056, and 
H.R. 12097, Relief of Distress Due to Unemployment, 72d Cong., 1st Sess., 1932, 
pp. 75, 76, 83-84. 

The Land 21 

The plans of the National Forward to the Land League were 
ambitious. Through borrowed money the League was to be able to 
furnish the inexperienced city colonists with finished houses; free 
medical insurance; co-operatives for credit, production, and marketing; 
an expert agricultural adviser; and fully equipped farms. The colonists 
were to divide their time between their farms and nearby factories, 
which were to utilize the by-products of the farms. Lund blamed the 
failure of his League on vested real estate interests and on socialists 
within the government who preferred bureacratic rather than private 
colonies. 33 Mrs. Lund later, in a rambling and bitter denunciation, 
described the League's unsuccessful attempt to get a co-ordinating 
bureau in the Department of Labor during the Wilson administration. 
She attributed the lack of success to Frederic Howe, Commissioner of 
Immigration, and Louis Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor, both of 
whom wanted government-directed colonization and who, in Mrs. 
Lund's opinion, were socialists and single-taxers. Mrs. Lund described 
the Farm Loan Bank, the Farm Board, and the Reclamation Service 
as communistic. She also bore a particular hatred for certain "schem- 
ing" international financiers. 34 Nevertheless, Mrs. Lund claimed credit 
for two of the proposed soldier settlement bills following World War I 
and was a lobbyist for subsistence homesteads in 1932. 35 

From 1916 through 1922 there was always at least one colonization 
or soldier settlement bill before Congress. Since these bills represented 
much more than a back-to-the-land movement, they will receive de- 
tailed attention in a later chapter. The tremendous ovation awarded 
these proposed colonization schemes, particularly those applying 
to soldiers, was compounded of many elements of the idealism of 
the war to end wars; of the enthusiasm for doing the best for the re- 
turning servicemen; of the rampant nationalism inherent in any plan 
to reclaim thousands of worthless acres, in a sense creating a larger, 
wealthier nation; of the humanitarianism implicit in the oft-repeated 
belief that only American agriculture could feed a starving, war-torn 
Europe; and of the glowing confidence in the future of agriculture, 
which, just after the war, was reaping the highest reward in history. 

33 Lund, "Redistribution," pp. 242, 244; House Committee on Labor, Hearings 
on Relief of Distress Due to Unemployment, pp. 76, 84. 

34 House Committee on Labor, Hearings on Relief of Distress Due to Unemploy- 
ment, pp. 75, 78-79, 81-82. 

35 Ibid., p. 77. 

22 Tomorrow a New World 

But by no means least, this popular support reflected the strong feel- 
ing among perhaps a majority of the population that, for soldiers or 
for anyone, an independent farm home was the greatest possible 
blessing, contributing most to the wealth of the individual and to the 
strength, stability, and safety of the nation. William E. Smythe, of 
Little Landers fame, jubilantly predicted that "no part of the nation, 
and scarcely a single state, will fail to feel the new impulse toward 
the soil." 36 

This impulse toward the soil resulted in one notable private back- 
to-the-land venture and publicity stunt combined. Inspired by the 
proposed government colonization schemes, William D. Scott, a Brook- 
lyn sales manager, issued a prospectus in 1921 inviting prospective 
back-to-the-landers in New York to join him in establishing a farm 
colony in far-off Idaho. Scott received wide support for his plan, 
purchased 5,120 acres of land, sight unseen, near Buhl, Idaho, met 
with delegations of citizens from Idaho, and enlisted colonists for the 
great migration. To attract attention to the venture, Scott decided that 
the group should move to Idaho by automobile no small undertaking 
in 1921. Only twenty-eight eager colonists were able to pay the $3,000 
required for an automobile, equipment, and the first payment on 
their land. This small caravan of pioneers, modern style, left New 
York amidst raving newspaper accounts. It was to be a trip of joy, 
with sports, fishing, theater trips, magical Yellowstone Park, and the 
acclamation granted only to heroes. Mayors spoke, maidens kissed, 
farmers stared in wonder, all to be exceeded by the official welcome 
Idaho heaped upon its newest pioneers. The celebration over, the 
caravan left Buhl for their new colony, which they had already 
named Roseworth. They barely were able to cross Salmon Falls River 
Pass, were now alone in desolate sagebrush, and found only one 
settler and a few shacks at Roseworth. The soil ( really very good ) was 
coated with sand. The disillusionment was complete. All but four 
of the colonists sold their equipment and returned home. 37 

The Roseworth debacle epitomized the end of an era of popular 
back-to-the-land sentiment, which had begun as far back as the 

38 William E. Smythe, "New Homestead Policy for America," Review of Re- 
views, LXV (1922), 293. 

37 Albert Shaw, "From New York to Idaho," Review of Reviews, LXIV (1921), 
179-180; George F. Stratton, "Sundown at Roseworth," Country Gentleman, 
LXXXVIII (Nov. 3, 1923), pp. 7, 32, 34. 

The Land 23 

depression of 1893. Then, in times of industrial depression, the 
movement had been one of relief. Later, with the general recovery, 
it had become one of sentiment and of small, intensive farming 
enterprises. With the European war came a new promise of future 
agricultural prosperity and with this many colonization schemes, pub- 
lic and private. But even as the pioneers left New York for Roseworth 
in 1921, a changed outlook faced American agriculture. The high 
postwar prices, which had been so temporary as to seem illusionary, 
were followed by falling prices and an era of agricultural depression. 
Meanwhile, industry, if not booming, was prosperous. No such im- 
balance between agriculture and industry had existed since the two 
decades which preceded the depression of 1893. Sentimentally, the 
farm might have retained its halo of desirability; economically, it was 
the problem child of the nation. A migration to the cities that had been 
progressing long before 1920, in the face of the dire predictions of 
the agrarians, became a rushing tide in the twenties. Always there is 
a great amount of migration both ways, but from 1921 until 1929 the 
net gain toward the cities varied from approximately 400,000 to 
1,137,000 annually. 38 Thus, back-to-the-land lost all but a sentimental 
value, while the problem of what to do with those on the land became 
a major concern of the decade. To this problem an industrialist not 
only proposed an answer but attempted a cure. Moreover, in this 
decade of agricultural gloom, a number of individuals and groups 
developed the most complete and formal agrarian philosophy that 
had appeared in America since Jefferson's day. 

It is no exaggeration to say that Henry Ford was one of the most 
popular men in America in the twenties. When he announced a new 
scheme for both industry and agriculture, Americans listened. Nat- 
urally Ford found the key to a glorious new era within the techniques 
and policies that he had applied to the Ford Motor Company. To Ford, 
industry had serious problems, such as poor housing, slums, and 
temporary unemployment. These evils sprang from industrial concen- 
tration and the profit motive. They could be solved, he believed, by 
the decentralization of industry and by the wage motive, which meant 
high wages and a greater demand for the manufacturer's product. 39 

^Pascal K. Whelpton, "The Extent, Character, and Future of the New Land- 
ward Movement," Journal of Farm Economics, XV ( 1933 ) , 59. 

39 Henry Ford, in collaboration with Samuel Crowther, Today and Tomorrow 
(Garden City, N.Y., 1926), pp. 135-149. 

24 Tomorrow a New World 

In decentralizing industry, Ford believed that he could bring salva- 
tion to the farmer, who wanted the same money and luxuries as the 
industrial worker. The family farm was an antiquated island of small 
business in a world of big business. The farmer was becoming a part- 
time worker, especially if he were able to afford the new farm ma- 
chinery. In the future the work of the average farm would take about 
one month out of the year. The rest of the time the farmer would work 
in Ford's decentralized factories. This grand synthesis of agriculture 
and industry was, to Ford, the way of the future. "Industry and agri- 
culture have been considered as separate and distinct branches of 
activity. Actually they fit into each other very neatly. But first we have 
to rid ourselves of many traditions." 40 

One of the goddesses of the twenties was prosperity, and the 
harmonious songs in her praise swelled throughout the land. All men 
were not prosperous; with all her largess, prosperity had passed by 
many without heeding their pleading eyes. But still they worshiped 
her. Farmers, even though they choked on the chorus, sang her praises 
as never before. The tragedy of their increasing economic ills was 
heightened by the devoutness of their worship. Perhaps tomorrow 
even they would find favor in her eyes, and find two cars in their 
garages. But toward the end of the decade the harmony of this 
worshipful praise was shattered by the most shocking discord, by 
heresy no less. In highly literate blasphemy the great goddess pros- 
perity was vilified. From some Catholic agrarians in the Midwest, 
from a few heretical Southerners in Nashville, even from the midst of 
the holy city of prosperity, New York, came a clarion call for men 
to return to their old gods and old ways. Who were these men speak- 
ing so? Was Jefferson back on earth, or was it St. Thomas speaking? 
America continued her song of praise, but many were visibly an- 
noyed, some few disturbed. Many laughed at these quaint eccentrics 
and called them escapists or incurable romantics, while a few heralded 
them as prophets. In fervent phrases these fundamental Jeffersonians, 
these reactionaries, these doctrinaire agrarians, or (as they sometimes 
called themselves) these distributists continued their plea for men 
to recognize the insufficiency of their newly discovered idols. 

The agrarian movement of the late twenties can be traced back to 
a small manifesto issued in 1911 by Hilaire Belloc, an English literary 

"Ibid., p. 218, see also pp. 210-218. 

The Land 25 

figure and prominent Catholic. He romantically praised the Catholic, 
agrarian society of the late Middle Ages, when the majority of men 
possessed, or had access to, wealth-producing property, and ve- 
hemently criticized the modern, Protestant, industrial, capitalist society 
in which only a few men owned real property. Belloc, as a moralist, 
advocated a return to a stable culture based on a wide distribution of 
property, particularly land. 41 Belloc, who used the word "distributist" 
to describe his economic platform, inspired a back-to-the-land move- 
ment in Great Britain and influenced an agrarian, distributist school 
among American Catholics. The Catholic Rural Life Conference, 
which was organized in 1923, advocated an agrarianism very similar 
to that of Belloc's, although they found their ideal agrarian society 
in Jefferson's America and not in the Middle Ages. The Catholic Rural 
Life Conference advocated property as a right and a responsibility, 
denounced farm tenancy, advocated subsistence farming, and, in the 
depression, attempted to guide the back-to-the-land movement. 42 
Father Luigi Ligutti, a leading member of the conference, sponsored 
and organized one of the first government-financed subsistence home- 
steads communities, Granger Homesteads in Iowa. 

The most heretical protest against contemporary American life 
came from the South, where twelve academicians at Vanderbilt 
University took a stand in behalf of their ideal agrarian society, the 
Old South. A few words can hardly summarize the thoroughness with 
which they repudiated all the goddesses of modernity prosperity and 
her trappings, which, in their hostile view, became cheap and vulgar; 
industrialism and urbanism, which had engulfed and enslaved the 
North and now threatened the South with its meaningless technology 
and coarse materialism; corporate wealth and government bureau- 
cracy, both of which demoralized and enslaved the individual by 
depriving him of the morally beneficial control of his own economic 
destiny; and progress, with her offspring of liberalism, progressivism, 
pragmatism, and relativism that wooed men away from an older, 
established, quality-conscious, formalized society in which art, ag- 
riculture, manners, authority, simplicity, tradition, breeding, leisure, 

41 Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State (1st American ed.; New York, 1946), pp. 
52-53, 110-123. 

42 Witte, Twenty-five Years of Crusading, pp. 60-61; National Catholic Rural 
Life Conference, Manifesto on Rural Life (Milwaukee, 1939), pp. 3, 41, and 
Rural Life Objectives, I (St. Paul, 1935), 21, 34-35. 

26 Tomorrow a New World 

religion, romanticism, ritual, regionalism, and localized institutions 
were respected. Their emotionally tinged picture of the Old South, 
of a delightful, self-assured, relaxed culture, was sharply and, in their 
skilled literary phrases, brilliantly contrasted with the fast tempo of 
modern life, with its ceaseless hard work, gross materialism, and 
vulgar capitalistic rationale. Although mainly an academic protest, the 
Southern agrarians were aware of Southern problems and advocated 
a redistribution of property and a return to subsistence farming. 
Enthroning Jefferson as their political and economic deity, they argued 
that only men with the actual control of the means of production, 
preferably farm land, could be independent of other men and, hence, 
politically free. 43 

One of the most influential agrarians or distributists was Ralph 
Borsodi, who in 1920 personally started subsistence farming on a small 
homestead near New York City. By utilizing labor-saving tools and by 
growing and processing a phenomenal number of foods, Borsodi 
achieved economic independence and became the supreme exemplar 
of self-sufBcient farming and successful back-to-the-land. Borsodi, 
who also favored the single tax, aesthetically revolted against the 
ugliness of the city and found his subsistence homestead an avenue 
to freedom and independence, but not to leisure. For quality-minded, 
freedom-seeking individuals, Borsodi proposed subsistence home- 
steads as an escape, as little islands "of intelligence and beauty 
amidst the chaotic seas of human stupidity and ugliness." 44 In the 
depression Borsodi found several to follow him back to the land. 
When the Division of Subsistence Homesteads was established, 
Borsodi was already guiding the development of a homestead colony 
in Dayton, Ohio. The first subsistence homesteads loan went to this 
project, although Borsodi, who had hailed the subsistence homesteads 
legislation as the beginning of a new, distributive era, soon became 
disgusted with government control. 45 

^Twelve Southerners, I'll Take My Stand (New York, 1930), pp. 12, 51-53, 
152, 244; Patrick F. Quinn, "Agrarianism and the Jeffersonian Philosophy," Re- 
view of Politics, II (1940), 88; Frank L. Owsley, "The Pillars of Agrarianism," 
American Review, IV (1934-1935), 529-574. 

44 Ralph Borsodi, This Ugly Civilization (New York, 1929), p. 221. 

45 Ralph Borsodi, Flight from the City (New York, 1933), pp. xix-xxii, "Sub- 
sistence Homesteads: President Roosevelt's New Land and Population Policy," 
Survey Graphic, XXIII (1934), 11-14, and "Democracy, Plutocracy, Bureaucracy," 
Free America, III (Aug., 1939), 10-12. 

The Land 27 

Another influential distributist was Herbert Agar, a historian and 
newspaper writer who, while in England as a reporter, received his 
agrarian inspiration directly from Belloc and other English dis- 
tributists. Back in America, he became an effective advocate of a 
redistribution of property and a decentralization of industry. Agar 
looked into history for his ideal but, unlike the other agrarians, did 
not color his history with a sectional or religious bias. In two excellent 
historical interpretations, The Peoples Choice and Pursuit of Hap- 
piness, Agar passionately defended the Jeffersonian philosophy of 
equal rights for all and special privileges for none, but pointed out 
how the Jeffersonian ideal had found less and less expression in 
American life. 46 Agar recognized the kinship between the English 
distributists, the Catholic Rural Life Conference, the Southern 
agrarians, and Borsodi. Partly through his efforts, all the agrarian 
groups participated in a meeting in Nashville in 1936, jointly published 
a new book, Who Owns America? 47 and launched an agrarian, dis- 
tributist magazine, Free America, which consistently advocated de- 
centralization, subsistence homesteads, and co-operatives. 48 

In the twenties Henry Ford expressed the prevailing sentiment 
when he said that farming, in the old subsistence sense, was an 
antiquated way of life, since everyone had moved into a money tradi- 
tion. Yet the agrarians had pleaded the sufficiency and superiority 
of the traditional farm and had hurled vitriolic insults at the money 
tradition. After 1929, as the depression deepened and hopes of quick 
recovery faded, the agrarians apparently were vindicated, for pros- 
perity had certainly been fickle. As industry failed, men, driven by 
necessity, turned back to the farm, for subsistence and not for money. 
The exact size of the back-to-the-land movement from 1930 to 1934 
can only be estimated, although it was certainly exaggerated by the 
newspaper accounts which portrayed a veritable flood of population 
moving to the country. 49 One factor that made the exodus seem so 
large was the diminishing number of farmers flocking to the city. In 
one estimate, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics indicated that, in 
1930, for the first time, there were more migrations to the country than 

48 Herbert Agar, Pursuit of Happiness (Cambridge, Mass., 1938), and The 
People's Choice (Boston, 1933). 

47 Herbert Agar and Allen Tate, eds., Who Owns America? (Boston, 1936). 

"Editorial, Free America, I (Jan., 1937), 4. 

49 Bercaw, Hannay, and Colvin, Bibliography on Land Settlement, pp. 69-104. 

28 Tomorrow a New World 

to the city. The net gain of the country, according to this estimate, was 
17,000 in 1930, 214,000 in 1931, and 533,000 in 1932, after which 
the trend reverted back to normal, with the city gaming 277,000 in 
1933. A later estimate revealed only one year, 1932, in which the 
countryward migration was the larger, and that by only 266,000. 50 
Regardless of the number involved, never before in the history of 
the United States had back-to-the-land been so popular, so frequently 
discussed, and so susceptible to crackpot schemes. Necessarily, there 
was pathos, humor, and romanticism in the movement. One critical 
writer described the movement: "The march back home moves to a 
various inner music, as profound and cleansing as the psalm begin- 
ning, 'The Lord is my Shepherd/ and as noisily self-deceptive as a 
mammy song." 51 The logic of the movement was often very simple: 
"Here are idle men; there are vacant acres; get them together and 
Mother Earth and Mother Nature will wipe all tears from their eyes 
and they shall be happy and satisfied in a primitive acadian sim- 
plicity." 52 A realtor's advertisement in the Wall Street Journal stated: 
"Buy an abandoned farm and live on trout and applejack until the 
upturn." 53 Henry Ford, as his contribution to the public welfare, put 
out a series of advertisements which proclaimed: "The Land! That is 
where our roots are." 54 One writer announced that "more log cabins 
are being built in the United States than at any time since Abraham 
Lincoln was a rail-splitter." 55 Some of the back-to-the-land movement 
merely represented farm boys returning to their fathers' farms, or 
farm laborers who had drifted to town and now drifted back to the 
farm, or Negroes who had come North and now were returning to the 
South. Others, and these were more pathetic, were returning to moun- 
tain shacks or formerly abandoned submarginal farms barely to sub- 
sist on meager diets. Even cityfolk without farming experience were 
moving to suburban subsistence farms or, tragically deceived, were 
buying deserted, unproductive farms with their last savings. Many 

50 Edmund de S. Brunner and Irving Lorge, Rural Trends in Depression Years 
(New York, 1937), p. 81. 

51 Russell Lord, "Back to the Farm," Forum, LXXXIX (1933), 97-98. 
52 Willard T. Davis and Malcolm Cowley, "How Far Back to the Land?" New 

Republic, LXXV (1933), 336. 

53 Lord, "Back to the Farm," p. 98. w Ibid., p. 97. 

55 Arthur Pound, "Land Ho!" Atlantic Monthly, CLI (1933), 715. 

The Land 29 

voices began to demand reason instead of romanticism and direction 
and instruction for the prospective back-to-the-lander. Newly created 
social problems appeared; and the inescapable facts of unemployment 
remained, with many predicting that because of technological ad- 
vances employment could never again include all the prospective 
workers. 56 The "march back home" continued. 

One way of relief lay close at hand. The vacant-lot-garden idea was 
resuscitated. Garden clubs sprang up all over the country, with the 
Extension Service of the Department of Agriculture reporting that a 
large share of its work consisted of directing and assisting the new 
gardeners. In Kansas, a farm state, sixty-three of seventy-eight coun- 
ties had garden plans by 1933. 57 Many large corporations provided 
garden space for their employees. Standard Oil, Studebaker, and the 
American Rolling Mill Company donated land for individual gardens. 
B. F. Goodrich promoted community gardens, as did United States 
Steel. Forty per cent of the railroad companies promoted gardens. But 
it was Henry Ford who went the limit. He sponsored 50,000 gardens 
in the Detroit area and astonished the nation by announcing that, 
starting in 1932, no employee of his woodworking plant at Iron 
Mountain, Michigan, could retain his job unless he grew a garden to 
supply part of his winter food needs. On his part, Ford promised that 
the company would provide expert aid and plots for those who needed 
them. 58 Ford, who had heretofore been unsuccessful in marrying 
shop and field, decreed that "the man too lazy to work in a garden 
during his leisure time does not deserve a job." His dictatorial decree 
was quickly called paternalism and the gardens dubbed "shotgun 
gardens." 59 

A number of more ambitious back-to-the-land schemes were suc- 
cessfully managed. The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce sent several 

50 Ibid., pp. 716-717, 719. 

57 Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Extension Service, "Subsistence Gar- 
dens Flourish," Extension Service Review, IV (Nov., 1933), 109. 

58 Warren Bishop, "How Business Fights the Wolf," Nations Business, XX 
(Nov., 1933), 24-25, 54; U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 
"Gardens for Unemployed Workers," Monthly Labor Review, XXXV (1932), 495- 
496; "Ford Promotes His Hobby to Unite Farm and Factory," Business Week, 
Sept. 2, 1931, p. 23. 

59 "Stirred Up by Henry Ford's Shotgun Gardens," Literary Digest, CX (Sept. 
12, 1931), 10. 

30 Tomorrow a New World 

selected families back to farms. Los Angeles proposed a "land chest" 
for its one-foot-in-the-cotmtry part-time farmers. 60 In Muscogee 
County, Georgia, a local relief commission aided city dwellers in re- 
turning to tenant farming. 61 In Michigan 300 families from large cities 
established the Sunrise Co-operative Farm Community on 10,000 acres 
of land, where they planned to raise all needed food and enough 
marketable products to procure clothing. They shared everything in 
common, even making the care of children a community matter. 62 
After three years of unsuccessful operation by about seventy-five 
Jewish families the Sunrise Co-operative Community was sold in 
1936 to the Resettlement Administration and became the site of the 
Saginaw Valley Farms, a rural resettlement community. Across the 
border, in Canada, both Saskatchewan and Manitoba advanced 
funds to selected back-to-the-landers. 63 One of the more ambitious 
schemes in the United States, and one that materially influenced 
subsistence homesteads legislation, was carried out in Greenville, 
South Carolina. In 1931 Charles L. Richardson, Commissioner of 
Conciliation, Department of Labor, was sent to Greenville to assist in 
relief to the unemployed. With the assistance of Red Cross workers 
and funds, Richardson placed forty-two destitute families on aban- 
doned farms in the area around the city. Most of the farms were 
acquired at a small rent from the Farm Loan Bank. Contrary to many 
predictions the farmers remained on the land. 64 

By 1932 several people were clamoring for some directed program 
of land settlement. The Salvation Army had complete plans for mov- 
ing thousands to the country, but insufficient funds. 65 One proposal, 
based on past plans within the Reclamation Service, suggested that 
a colony be established in each state, utilizing the engineering ability 
of the Bureau of Reclamation, the agricultural advice of the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture, and the ready funds of the Federal Land Bank. 66 
A more elaborate scheme called for an agricultural army. Enlisted 

60 Back-to-the-Land," Survey, LXVIII (1932), 614. 

61 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 12-13. 

62 "Unemployed Workers Farm 10,000 Acres in Michigan," American Observer, 
III (Oct. 25, 1933), 6. 

^Murchie, Land Settlement as a Relief Measure, pp. 16-18. 
w House Committee on Labor, Hearings on Relief of Distress Due to Unem- 
ployment, pp. 35-42; "By Way of the Hoe," Survey, LXVII (1932), 538. 
65 C.R., 72d Cong., 1st Sess., 1932, p. 15385. 
"Alvin Johnson, "Relief from Farm Relief," Yale Review, XXII (1932), 64. 

The Land 31 

families, officered by skilled agriculturalists, would build log houses, 
wear homespun, and grow food only for their own consumption. The 
author of this plan pointed to its small cost and to the fact that the 
army colonies would become great farm demonstration units and that 
the agricultural army, permanently organized, would offer a lasting 
guarantee to everyone of the right to work. 67 

Bernarr Macfadden, physical culturist and publisher of several 
newspapers and cheap magazines, probably did more than anyone else 
to promote back-to-the-land legislation in the United States Congress. 68 
In 1932 and 1933 he maintained a lobbyist in Washington to develop 
support for a government subsistence homesteads program. By means 
of a stream of articles in his publications he defended the idea. To 
Macfadden the problem was very simple get the people on the land 
and they could take care of themselves. In short, he wanted the govern- 
ment to "take people out of the bread line and put them upon land 
and give them some coarse food and implements that are essential to 
work the land and enable them to raise their own vegetables." 69 
Other considerations about the people's welfare did not matter to 
Macfadden, who declared that it made no "difference whether the 
people have much to wear; they will be satisfied with enough to eat." 70 
As a result of Macfadden's efforts and in light of relief measures al- 
ready undertaken in Greenville, South Carolina, and in New York 
State, Loring M. Black, Jr., Representative from New York, introduced 
two bills in 1932 providing for government information or assistance 
to those seeking subsistence living in rural areas. 71 In the Senate, 
Charles L. McNary of Oregon introduced an almost identical measure 
in the form of a joint resolution. 72 The Senate resolution called for 
the Department of Agriculture (the Black bills designated the De- 
partment of Labor ) to provide information to prospective back-to-the- 
landers about available lands and sources of finance. 73 One of the 
Black bills went farther and provided for an appropriation of $10,000,- 

07 Malcolm McDermott, "An Agricultural Army," South Atlantic Quarterly, 
XXXI (1932), 181-183. 

68 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 23. 

69 House Committee on Labor, Hearings on Relief of Distress Due to Unem- 
ployment, p. 23. 

Ibid. 71 C.R., 72d Cong., 1st Sess, 1932, p. 15384. 

"Ibid., p. 15381. 

73 Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, The United Communities, 
Report no. 799, 72d Cong., 1st Sess., 1932, pp. 1-2. 

32 Tomorrow a 'New World 

000 to be used by the Department of Labor in providing farming op- 
portunities to destitute and unemployed persons with former agricul- 
tural experience. 74 

Since these Macfadden bills, as they were referred to in congres- 
sional debate, were the most direct antecedents of the later subsistence 
homesteads legislation and the only bills to receive any attention 
from the floor of Congress, the committee hearings and floor debate on 
these measures remain the sole indication of early congressional 
sentiment toward subsistence homesteads. The Black bill requiring an 
appropriation of $10,000,000 was not reported from the House Com- 
mittee on Labor because it had no chance of passage in a penurious 
Congress. 75 The Senate Joint Resolution, which received a favorable 
report by the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, passed in the 
Senate by voice vote, despite the reluctant acceptance given the bill 
by Secretary of Agriculture Arthur M. Hyde, who was much con- 
cerned about the effect the measure might have upon mounting 
agricultural surpluses. 76 The Black bills received a hearing before the 
House Committee on Labor, where the most extensive and objective 
testimony was given by Dr. John D. Black, Harvard professor and 
farm economist for the Federal Farm Board. Black cautiously admitted 
possibilities of temporary relief in idle farms near cities and in city 
gardens. He also predicted a future need, after the return of pros- 
perity, for the planned development of small, part-time farms near 
cities, but advised against any extensive colonization plans in a de- 
pression, pointing to past failures and prohibitive costs. The other 
witnesses were largely back-to-the-land advocates who compensated 
for their vague plans by their sincere fervor. The parade of advocates, 
many already discussed in former pages, included Macfadden; his 
lobbyist, Mrs. Edith R. Lumsden; Mrs. Haviland D. Lund, of the 
former National Forward to the Land League; Edgar Schmiedeler, 
who represented the views of the Catholic Rural Life Conference; 
Miss Mae A. Schnurr of the Bureau of Reclamation; Hugh MacRae, 
a Wilmington, North Carolina, businessman who had established some 
farming colonies; and others representing Negroes, the Department of 

74 House Committee on Labor, Hearings on Relief of Distress Due to Unem- 
ployment, pp. 1-2. 

75 C.R., 72d Cong., 1st Sess., 1932, p. 15386. 

ie lbid., p. 13839; Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, The United 
Communities, pp. 1-2. 

The Land 33 

Labor, and a back-tothe-land movement within the Episcopal 
Church. 77 

On the floor of the House of Representatives the Senate-approved 
joint resolution was subjected to the only extensive floor debate ever 
accorded subsistence homesteads legislation. Defended on the basis 
of pressing need by its cosponsor, Loring Black, the resolution was 
most cogently attacked by Fiorello H. LaGuardia of New York, who 
described it as worthless without an appropriation. He argued that 
moving destitute men back to the farm was a "hard, practical, prop- 
osition" requiring extensive guidance and financial assistance, for 
"everything is not what it once was on the farm." LaGuardia castigated 
Congress for continually seeking inexpensive but ineffective pal- 
liatives. 78 Also opposing the bill on very effective grounds were farm- 
state congressmen who wished to protect the farmer from possible 
competition by back-to-the-landers. 79 

Most of the arguments contained more eloquence and invective than 
calm reason. Robert A. Green of Florida declared that it was either 
back to the farm now or later for millions of unemployed, who were 
never going to find employment again and who would have to seek 
relief on the millions of idle acres, where they could "from the breast 
of mother nature wring an existence." 80 But to Green this was not bad 
news: "The farms have always produced our great leaders in finance, 
industry and statesmanship. . . . The vast population must depart 
from the congested industrial centers and cities and once again be- 
come self-sustaining on our vast and fertile farms, pasture, and prairie 
lands. Herein lies the real hope for the bright destiny of America." 81 
Green had a vision of a new America just ten years in the future, when 
there would be no congested industrial centers and the "choice people 
of America would live on farms, free, independent and happy, living 
by the sweat of their honest brows, laboring beneath the blue canopy 
of heaven." 82 William H. Stafford of Wisconsin declared that on the 
farm the poor could "have a cow and a pig and the like" and there 
"make a step toward relieving themselves and those dearest to them 
by cultivating God's native soil." 83 His colleague from Wisconsin and 

77 House Committee on Labor, Hearings on Relief of Distress Due to Unem- 
ployment, pp. 5-108. 

78 C.R., 72d Cong., 1st Sess., 1932, p. 15385. "Ibid., p. 15387. 

80 Ibid., p. 15386. 81 Ibid. 82 Ibid. w Ibid., p. 15385. 

34 Tomorrow a New World 

the most bitter critic of the resolution, John C. Schafer, suggested that 
Macfadden use his wealth to furnish the back-to-the-landers a cow 
and a pig, as well as a year's subscription to True Stories or True 
Romances. Schafer facetiously asked: "Are you going to take these 
poor unemployed city people with their little children, and put them 
out on the farms where it is sometimes 22 degrees below zero and 
where the snow is as high as 10 feet deep, and then say that you are 
saving them?" 84 Also, "If a neighbor gives them a cow . . . what are 
they going to feed it? Snow from some of the banks 5 or 6 or 10 feet 
deep?" 85 By a vote of 75 to 58 the House sent the resolution back to 
committee. Later it was resurrected only to be tabled. 86 

In New York State a temporary Emergency Relief Administration 
had actually assisted many people back to the land. This received the 
approval of New York's governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. As early as 
1913 Roosevelt had suggested that suburban farms should be provided 
for city dwellers, thereby making city life tolerable and cities places 
"where people will be pretty proud to hail from." 87 This desire to 
provide an institutional link between city and country led Roosevelt 
into an advocacy of both suburban and rural planning, rather than 
purely sentimental back-to-the-land schemes. But always, with Roo- 
sevelt, there was a kinship with the more romantic agrarians. Accord- 
ing to Rexford G. Tugwell, Roosevelt "always did, and always would, 
think people better off in the country and would regard the cities as 
rather hopeless." 88 In 1911 Roosevelt gave the following statement of 
his agrarianism: "In fact, I might almost say that the political salvation 
of the country lies with the country men and boys. Not because they 
are more honest or more patriotic than their brothers in the cities, 
but because they have more time to think and study for themselves." 89 
Tugwell discovered this rural pattern of thinking in Roosevelt and 
used it to get close to him. In the "brain trust" days before Roosevelt 
entered the White House, he described to Tugwell in nostalgic terms 
his ambition to place the unemployed population on subsistence home- 
steads. According to Tugwell they "again and again explored the de- 
lights of country life, detailed the possibilities of improvement, and 

84 IM., p. 15389. K Ibid. "Ibid., pp. 15390, 15725. 

'"Rexford G. Tugwell, "The Sources of New Deal Reformism," Ethics, LXIV 
(1954), 276. 
"Ibid., p. 266. 
"Ibid., p. 275, as quoted from the New York Globe, Feb. 6, 1911. 

The Land 35 

speculated about means for introducing rural virtues into cities." 90 Tug- 
well believed it "sheer luck that I caught the meaning to him of country 
life" and ascribed his later appointment as Assistant Secretary of 
Agriculture to his and Roosevelt's mutual exploration of the "emotional 
paths" of rural life. 91 In 1931 Roosevelt, when commenting on the 
back-to-the-land movement, asked the following leading question: 
"Suppose one were to offer these [unemployed] men opportunity to 
go on the land, to provide a house and a few acres in the country 
and a little money and tools to put in small food crops?" 92 He believed 
the idea had implications worth serious consideration. 

In 1931, at the request of President Hoover's Committee on Un- 
employment Relief and of the Federal Children's Bureau, the American 
Friends Service Committee, under the direction of its executive 
secretary, Clarence E. Pickett, began extensive child feeding and 
other relief activities in the bituminous coal fields of West Virginia, 
Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. 93 The 
Friends, in addition to distributing food, decided to try to do some 
permanent rehabilitation work with the estimated 500,000 unemployed 
and stranded people. Assisted by the Federal Council of Churches 
and with some guidance from the United States Bureau of Education 
and the Pennsylvania State Bureau of Education, the committee began 
moving miners to subsistence farms elsewhere and, at the same time, 
started a part-time farming, part-time mining program for the ones 
remaining in the mine areas. As further assistance, the Friends, work- 
ing without exact precedents, established handicraft shops and pro- 
moted gardening clubs. A Mountaineer Craftsman's Co-operative As- 
sociation employed fifty men and women in weaving and furniture 
making in the Morgantown, West Virginia, area. 94 

""Rexford G. Tugwell, "The Preparation of a President," Western Political 
Quarterly, I (1948), 132-133. 

91 Ibid., pp. 133-134. 

02 Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Back to the Land," Review of Reviews, LXXXIV 
(Oct., 1931), 64. 

93 American Friends Service Committee, Annual Report for 1931-32 (Phila- 
delphia, 1932), p. 15. 

94 Clarence E. Pickett, For More than Bread (Boston, 1953), pp. 21-22; Ameri- 
can Friends Service Committee, Annual Report for 1933 (Philadelphia, 1933), 
pp. 16-17; American Friends Service Committee, Report of the Child Relief Work 
in the Bituminous Coal Fields, September 1, 1931 August 31, 1932 (n.p., n.d.), 
pp. 8-10, 15-17. 

36 Tomorrow a New World 

The experiences of the Friends Service Committee in West Virginia 
attracted the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt, who visited the West 
Virginia mining area just after Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the 
White House. This visit stimulated her interest in the plight of the 
miners and in subsistence homesteads. Her interest practically assured 
a government-sponsored subsistence homesteads project for the 
Morgantown area. It also led to the appointment of Clarence E. Pickett 
as Assistant Administrator of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. 93 
In addition, the later handicraft program of the Subsistence Home- 
steads Division was first developed in the pioneer work of the Friends. 
Many of the Friends' relief workers continued to assist voluntarily after 
the work was taken over by the government, some living in subsistence 
homesteads and devoting themselves to community building or to the 
establishment of co-operative shops. 96 Four of the most controversial 
subsistence homesteads communities (Arthurdale, Cumberland Home- 
steads, Westmoreland Homesteads, and Tygart Valley Homesteads) 
developed from the Friends' activities. 

The back-to-the-land movement, springing from the urgency of 
depression or founded largely in nebulous, romantic, or escapist 
philosophies, was relatively unimportant in giving direction to the 
actual administration of the subsistence homesteads and resettlement 
programs. As a whole, the direction of, as well as part of the motiva- 
tion for, government communities came from social scientists and 
from advocates of governmental planning. Although the back-to- 
the-land movement contributed such men as Macfadden, MacRae, 
Borsodi, Father Ligutti, and Clarence Pickett to the actual administra- 
tion or policy making of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, those 
men, excepting Pickett, either soon left the movement or exerted a 
strictly local influence on single projects. But it is almost inconceivable 
that there would have been any subsistence homesteads legislation 
without the back-to-the-land movement of the depression period. This 
fact alone made the back-to-the-land movement an important, even 
a basic, factor in the entrance of the federal government into the field 
of community building. 

96 Pickett, For More than Bread, pp. 44-45. 

96 American Friends Service Committee, Annual Report for 1934 (Philadelphia, 
1934), p. 15. 


Bringing the Town to the Country 

"BACK-to-the-land" was not the only slogan that influenced the 
creation of the New Deal communities. After 1929 the concept of 
"planning" also became a slogan and a proposed escape from in- 
security. Just as much as a wholesale return to the land, "planning," 
if the implications of the term had been fully defined and compre- 
hended, probably implied more a revolution than a mere palliative. 
But most of the people, businessmen included, who acclaimed plan- 
ning in 1933 comprehended only their own distress. They no more 
understood the implications of the term "planning" than many urban- 
ites comprehended the true situation back on the farm. It even seems 
likely that Franklin D. Roosevelt acclaimed planning without a full 
understanding of its implications. Yet, as one convinced planner has 
said, Roosevelt's first historic achievement was that "in his campaign 
for the presidency, [he] raised economic and social planning to the 
status of a recognized national policy." 1 

In origin the New Deal communities were very closely associated 
with this new emphasis on planning. Three related but separate plan- 
ning movements influenced the entrance of the government into the 
field of community building and contributed almost all the personnel 
to the agencies that planned and developed the communities. One 
very significant movement was concerned with the development of a 

1 Louis L. Lorwin, Time for Planning ( New York, 1945 ) , p. 137. 


38 Tomorrow a New World 

policy of planned land settlement, directed toward organized rural 
communities containing many urban advantages. Another was the 
city planning movement or, more specifically, a certain element in 
the city planning movement which emphasized the need for develop- 
ing wholly new towns or communities in a spacious, rural environment. 
Lastly, and perhaps most important, was the movement, at first largely 
among economists in the universities, for a broad program of national 
economic planning which, most important for the New Deal com- 
munities, included land-use and agricultural planning. These three 
movements will be considered in this and the next two chapters. 

Before approaching either of the above-mentioned planning move- 
ments, a few comments on the term "planning" are worth while. Plan- 
ning itself denotes purposeful endeavor and is, therefore, an activity 
possible for all men. To plan is to be human. Individuals are constantly 
selecting goals and means to achieve them or, in other words, are 
planning. But at the time of the New Deal the term "planning" was 
related not to individuals but to a group of individuals or a whole na- 
tion planning collectively. If everyone in a state could agree on ends 
and means, collective planning would involve no sharp distinction 
from individual planning, but obviously individuals do not always 
agree on either ends or means. This fact severely restricts the amount 
of collective planning possible in a society or necessitates some degree 
of discipline on the part of individuals. Much of this discipline will be 
voluntary in fact, in a democratic society, the degree of voluntary 
discipline almost determines the extent of collective planning. On the 
other hand, in any society there is some coercive, involuntary dis- 
cipline, particularly for small minorities. In all cases some individuals 
do not share in the planning but are necessarily included in it. The 
greater the extension of collective planning, the greater is the likeli- 
hood that a larger number of individuals will have to be coerced un- 
less some emergency or crisis, such as war or depression, causes more 
people to be willing voluntarily to acquiesce in common goals and 
programs. In these instances the planning program, with its restrictions 
on individual freedom, will last only as long as the crisis unless some 
method of coercion, such as propaganda or police methods, is in- 

In 1933 the term "planning" usually implied planning by a govern- 
ment. Collective programs were to be realized through the instrumen- 

Bringing Town to Country 39 

tality of government. Actually the very existence of government almost 
necessitates some type of collective planning. In the United States 
the government had always implemented certain common goals, either 
those held by many people or by a few powerful people. Thus, in the 
New Deal, the real argument was not over state planning but over 
the extent of state planning, which, in reality, was the old argument 
over the desirable role and function of a government in a society. Yet 
the term "government," even in the most representative republics, is 
usually associated not with the voting public but with the individuals, 
elected or appointed, who execute public programs. Regardless of the 
method used in selecting these programs, much of the policy, much 
of the detailed planning, is left to these public officials. In modern 
governments the complexities of administration require more and more 
expert knowledge from the bureaucrats, thus separating them and 
their work more and more from the voting masses. The bureaucrat 
becomes not only an agent to implement the goals of the people, but 
himself plans broad programs which he may or may not have to pre- 
sent to the voters for approval or disapproval. Thus, in the New Deal, 
the increased emphasis on the term "planning" not only implied an 
increased role for the State in society but, springing from this, an in- 
creased importance for the bureaucratic expert. 

Finally, the term "planning" meant, to many people in 1933, a cer- 
tain "looking forward" activity within a government. This specific ac- 
tivity could be either a part of ordinary action programs or a special 
branch of government, such as state or city planning boards or com- 
missions. In either case highly skilled professional planners were to be 
utilized by the government to study future needs and to recommend 
specific policies or programs. Although their recommendations would 
be based not only on detailed statistical studies but also on their 
personal philosophies, this type of planning apparently promised 
better government, since policies and programs would be selected 
only on the basis of comprehensive and technically accurate facts. 
Thus, to some, governmental planning meant better, more efficient 
government. To others it also meant more government, with new 
programs being based on the social vision of enlightened planning 

When, around 1900, a few individuals began to ask for a government 
policy of planned and directed land settlement, they were asking for 

40 Tomorrow a New World 

a complete revision of the recent United States policy toward land 
settlement. In colonial America the public lands in New England were 
settled under rigid regulations and controls. The townships often were 
settled under regulations governing the size of family units, the time 
limits on full settlement, the size of houses, the amount of land to 
be improved, the provision of church and school facilities, and the 
ultimate disposition of surrounding land. In 1784 and 1785, partly 
because of the influence of Thomas Jefferson, much of the New Eng- 
land idea of directed colonization was incorporated into the first land 
ordinances. Surveys were to precede sales. A section was to be reserved 
for education. Four sections were retained for the future disposal by 
Congress, and one-third of the mineral rights were reserved for Con- 
gress. Land was to be sold by townships and, to secure compactness, 
each township was to be completely sold before a new one was opened 
to sale. Of these early provisions only the requirement of prior survey 
and the reservation for schools were retained as permanent, though 
much abused, policies in the nineteenth century. 2 

Apparently the main objective of nineteenth-century public land 
policies was the most rapid possible disposal of the public lands to 
private individuals. Even the early use of the lands as a source of 
revenue was gradually replaced by liberal pre-emption and home- 
stead acts, as well as by huge grants for internal improvements. Ex- 
cept for the idea that ownership should be widely diffused in family- 
size farms, there were few guiding objectives. Mineral and timber 
rights were given away or sold at fractions of their value, without 
awareness of public interest. Even the few regulations as to survey 
and recording of titles were never enforceable. The people desired 
free land and little control over how they settled it. 3 The public interest 
may not have been served, but, in a democracy, who can safeguard 
the public interest except the public itself? 

Even as the better public lands began to disappear, new settlement 
policies were developed. The short-lived and unsatisfactory Timber 
Culture Act of 1873, which required all homesteaders on the plains 
to cultivate a fixed acreage of trees, represented a beautiful dream of 
dark green trees on the bleak treeless plain. 4 As Secretary of the 

2 Benjamin H. Hibbard, A History of the Public Land Policies (New York, 
1924), pp. 36-40. 

8 Ibid., pp. 550-551. * Ibid., p. 413. 

Bringing Town to Country 41 

Interior under Hayes, Carl Schtirz recommended the withdrawal of 
timberlands from homestead entry and requested a law providing 
for timber culture. In 1879 the United States Geological Survey and 
the Public Land Commission were established, eventuating in a land 
conference in the same year. A strong conservation movement de- 
veloped in the eighties, led by the American Forestry Association, 
which was founded in 1884. It was ably supported by many young, 
German-trained economists who united to form the American Eco- 
nomic Association in 1885. They not only had observed German 
scientific forestry but had learned that the state could safely enter 
the realm of economic regulation. In 1891 an act to repeal the several 
timber culture laws led to a virtual revolution in public land policy, 
for the act permitted the President to set aside public lands as forest 
reserves. After a century of rapid disposal, a policy of retention was 
adopted. Under Theodore Roosevelt, a passionate conservationist, the 
new policy bore abundant fruit, for he set aside 148,346,925 acres; 
he also extended the policy of retention to oil lands, power and 
reservoir sites, and mineral lands. This was the beginning of the end 
for the old public land policies, although it was only on February 5, 
1935, that Franklin D. Roosevelt withdrew the last of the public lands 
from entry. 5 

Conservation marked the negative aspect of the new land policy. 
The positive side of the new policies involved the development of 
land resources and the control and direction of settlement. This was, 
until the New Deal, almost entirely confined to reclamation projects. 
After several years of agitation for an irrigation program by the na- 
tional government, the Newlands Reclamation Act was passed in 
June, 1902. It represented the first time that the government had ever 
assumed a responsibility for improving the land before sale. The act, 
which was defended as being similar to river and harbor legislation, 
became a subject of popular interest, reflecting expansionist and na- 
tionalistic sentiments, as well as a neo-Malthusian belief in the con- 
tinuous expansion of population. It was defended by arguments for 
conservation, home building, and the relief of congested cities. Like 

5 Roy M. Robbins, Our Landed Heritage (Princeton, N.J., 1942), pp. 286-290, 
422; Leonard A. Salter, Jr., A Critical Review of Research in Land Economics 
(Minneapolis, 1948), pp. 6-7; Hibbard, A History of the Public Land Policies, 
pp. 520-523, 530-531. 

42 Tomorrow a New World 

all subsequent reclamation or land settlement legislation, it was op- 
posed by the Midwestern farmers who saw, in reclamation projects, 
government-sponsored and aided competition. They argued that the 
act was unconstitutional and that the government had the power only 
to dispose of its public lands, not to develop them. 6 

The Newslands Reclamation Act did not mark a revolutionary de- 
parture from the objectives of past land legislation. The govern- 
ment assumed the new task of constructing irrigation works, utilizing 
funds from the sale of public lands, but the homesteaders on an ir- 
rigation project had to repay the government over a period of ten 
years. 7 Acreage limitations and residence requirements were often 
abused in practice, but in principle the old idea of complete, fee 
simple ownership of small farms by individual farmers was honored. 
In the Newlands Act every possible attempt was made to limit gov- 
ernment paternalism to the minimum task of constructing the dams 
and irrigation works, a task manifestly impossible for an individual 
settler. As soon as paid for, the works were to be maintained and 
operated by the settlers, although the actual title remained in the 
hands of the government. There was no provision for the selection 
of settlers, for the provision of credit, or for the preparation of the 
farms to receive water. 8 

Although the Newslands Act was hardly changed until the twenties, 
a whole new philosophy of land settlement and reclamation, as well 
as a changed concept of the role or function of government, was de- 
veloped by individuals closely connected with national or state recla- 
mation agencies. One of these individuals so influenced reclamation 
and land settlement policies in the United States that he, virtually 
alone, was responsible for two decades of attempted revision and 
reform in reclamation. Eventually his ideas, almost in their totality, 

6 John T. Ganoe, "The Origin of a National Reclamation Policy," Mississippi 
Valley Historical Review, XVIII (1931), 48-51; Lewis C. Gray, "The Principles 
of Land Planning," in Planned Society, ed. by Findlay Mackenzie (New York, 
1937), p. 167; Dorothy Lampen, Economic and Social Aspects of Federal Reclama- 
tion (Johns Hopkins University Studies in History and Political Science, Ser. 
XLVIII, no. 1; Baltimore, 1930), p. 49. 

7 Clarence J. McCormick, "It Can Be Solved," in Land Tenure, ed. by Ken- 
neth H. Parsons, Raymond J. Penn, and Philip M. Raup (Madison, Wis., 1956), 
p. 31. 

8 F. H. Newell and others, "Federal Land Reclamation: A National Problem," 
Engineering News-Record, XCI (1923), 668, 802-807. 

Bringing Town to Country 43 

were adapted to the rural communities constructed by the New Deal. 
His name was Elwood Mead. 

Elwood Mead, a civil engineer and irrigation authority, served 
with the United States Engineers and as a college professor before 
becoming territorial engineer of Wyoming in 1888. From 1897 to 
1907 he was professor of institutions and practices of irrigation at the 
University of California, at the same time serving the United States 
Department of Agriculture as an irrigation and drainage investigator. 
In 1904 he received an honorary doctorate in engineering from Purdue 
University. In 1907 he began the most formative experience in his 
life as head of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of 
Victoria, Australia. 9 In Victoria, Mead supervised the reclamation and 
settlement of thirty-two irrigation projects. In Australia the state pur- 
chased land, by compulsion if necessary, built the irrigation works, 
readied and even planted the land, constructed roads and laid out 
towns, prepared house plans, built fences, and located prospective 
livestock before the settlers were invited to the project. The settler, 
after paying one-third of the purchase price of a home, selected his 
house plan. The government then built his house. The settler re- 
ceived expert advice in purchasing his livestock and in his farming, 
got his nursery stock from a government nursery, and marketed his 
products through government-supported co-operatives and with the 
aid of government dairies, warehouses, and slaughterhouses. He en- 
joyed the social life of a nearby village or town, which had, very 
likely, been planned by an English city planner, and received twenty- 
year loans for up to 60 per cent of his needed improvements. Although 
the settler purchased his land on long terms, he never received 
clear title, for he was required to live on and cultivate his own land 
in order to retain it. 10 Mead enthusiastically endorsed this type of 
land settlement. It became his ideal. He felt a great compulsion to 
bring all his newly discovered ideas to the United States and see them 
applied to what he believed to be a declining American agriculture. 11 

In the words of an admirer, Elwood Mead dreamed "the most 

9 Vernon M. Cady, "A Western Experiment in Land Settlement," Survey, XL 
(1918), 686. 

10 Elwood Mead, "Government Aid and Direction in Land Settlement," Ameri- 
can Economic Review, Supplement to vol. VIII (1918), 89-91; Frederic C. Howe, 
"Land Settlement and the Soldier," Nation, CVIII (1919), 426. 

11 Howe, "Land Settlement and the Soldier," p. 426. 

44 Tomorrow a New World 

wonderful dream of social reclamation in America." 12 Mead wished 
the United States to adopt the Australian idea of an organized rural 
society. He realized that for the United States to do this would in- 
volve an almost revolutionary increase in the role of government. 
This he welcomed. From his travels he became convinced that the 
United States was behind the rest of the world in industrial and social 
legislation. The state should be the great co-ordinating force in in- 
dustry and commerce; yet it was not so in the United States, where 
the best leadership and most capable technicians went into business 
instead of into government. A false feeling that inefficiency and 
waste were inseparable from self-government had resulted in gov- 
ernmental functions being turned over to private enterprise. He be- 
lieved that increased governmental functions would enhance rather 
than limit freedom, for there could be no true freedom as long as want 
and misery existed in the midst of plenty. He pointed to New Zealand 
and Australia, where the government operated railroads, telephones, 
telegraphs, streetcars, and express lines and where it constructed urban 
and rural housing, as examples of beneficial paternalism. He urged 
America to give up the idea that the state was purely a political in- 
stitution with no concern in human endeavor, for the state was, at 
its best, a business partner. 13 The paternalism "which creates oppor- 
tunity for industry and thrift, awakens hope, arouses ambition, and 
strengthens belief in the brotherhood of man, is altogether good in 
its influence on character and on the prosperity of the state." 14 

Although Mead wanted a new role for government in all realms, 
he was content to labor for an improved rural life. He was enough 
of an agrarian to believe that the life of even a modern nation de- 
pended upon a prosperous, contented, landowning farm population. 
Yet, to him, farm life in America was declining as the youth of the 
country flocked to the cities. Mead believed that the clue to the evil 
was to be found in the unorganized, unplanned nature of American 
country life. 15 Past land policies had led to speculation, high land 
prices, wasted soil, inefficiency, and tenancy and, most important, to 

12 U.S. Senate, Proceedings of the Southern Reclamation Conference, Document 
no. 45, 70th Cong., 1st Sess., 1928, p. 31. 

13 Elwood Mead, Helping Men Own Farms (New York, 1928), pp. 201-208. 

14 Ibid., p. 207. 

^Elwood Mead, "Advantages of a Planned Rural Development," Agricultural 
Engineering, III (1922), 42. 

Bringing Town to Country 45 

a deplorable lack of the social and community life obtainable in 
towns and cities. A planned rural development was vitally necessary 
in order to check political unrest and the migration to cities. As a 
beginning basis for reform, Mead suggested the implementation of 
the principle of landownership for those who actually cultivated the 
soil. Although he advocated tenant purchase laws, changes in tenure, 
regulated tenancy, and even the single tax to reduce speculation in 
land, Mead believed that the best starting place for land reform 
was in the area of reclamation, where fully new communities could 
be created to demonstrate the best principles of rural planning. 16 
The reclamation service had done excellent engineering in the past, 
but nothing else. Mead wished to combine social reclamation with 
land reclamation, social engineering with irrigation engineering. 

Mead's idea of an organized rural society included many innova- 
tions for American agriculture. The first and most basic necessity 
of rural planning, according to Mead, was group rather than indi- 
vidual settlement. Community settlement meant not only recreational 
and social advantages, but also co-operative institutions. It required 
the grouping of the farms around a village or community center, 
which would contain stores, the church and school, co-operative mar- 
kets, and a community building. He desired the whole settlement to 
be planned in advance by agricultural experts, with the land pre- 
pared and planted and with house designs available for quick, whole- 
sale construction. Around the village area Mead desired subsistence 
homesteads of two or three acres for farm laborers, eliminating the 
problems of migrant labor. After settlement he desired expert 
direction by agricultural experts. For the village he recognized the pos- 
sibilities of handicrafts or small industries. He desired some modifica- 
tion of land tenure in order to insure that the settler would remain 
on his land, although he believed that this would conflict with the 
American psychology. Finally, he wanted a long purchase contract, 
with terms up to forty years, as well as credit for improvements 
and equipment, all this to be secured by a large initial down pay- 
ment and by a very careful selection of settlers. 17 

18 Mead, "Government Aid and Direction in Land Settlement," pp. 7275, 

"Mead, Helping Men Own Farms, pp. 187-191; Howe, "Land Settlement and 
the Soldier," p. 427. 

46 Tomorrow a New World 

As the Australian land settlements proved successful, at least at 
first, Mead became more and more desirous of introducing the same 
methods into the United States. In 1914 he visited the University 
of California and discussed his ideas with the president of the uni- 
versity, the dean of the College of Agriculture, and the governor 
and lieutenant governor of California. Hiram W. Johnson, the reform 
governor of California, along with the others, believed that it would 
be possible to adapt Mead's type of settlement to the state of Cali- 
fornia, but not until public opinion was educated to accept what was 
so radical a change in policy. The educational campaign was launched 
through the influential Commonwealth Club of California, to which 
Mead outlined his ideas in May, 1914. In 1915 Elwood Mead re- 
turned permanently from Australia to head a state-appointed Com- 
mission on Colonization and Rural Credits and to resume his teach- 
ing at the University of California. The report of the commission, 
under Mead's direction, was entirely in favor of California's develop- 
ing a model farm settlement of approximately 10,000 acres. The pro- 
posal, based on extensive studies of existing settlement plans, was 
sharply debated in the Commonwealth Club. It was defended as a 
remedy for speculation and for all the human tragedies that had re- 
sulted on past irrigation projects because of inadequate preparation, 
lack of guidance and supervision, absence of credit, lack of settler 
selection, and inadequate safeguards against tenancy. It was vigor- 
ously opposed as an attack on meritorious land agents and private 
colonization companies, as governmental competition with business, 
as destructive of democracy, as not recognizing the inefficiency 
and destructive tendencies always present in government, as sub- 
sidized competition against farmers, as the type of paternalism that 
leads to a shirking of responsibility, as against the American tradi- 
tion of free and independent farmers, and as subversive of the native 
spirit of liberty which had led to the universal superiority of the 
Anglo-Saxon race. 18 

In 1917 the California legislature accepted the recommendation 
of Mead and his commission and enacted the first land settlement 
act in United States history. It followed very closely a Victoria, Aus- 

18 "Unemployment," Transactions of the Commonwealth Club of California, IX 
(1914), 682-684; "The Land Settlement Bill," ibid., X (1915), 83; "Land Settle- 
ment in California," ibid., XI (1916), 369-373, 397-398, 404-405, 427-428; "The 
Land Settlement Bill of 1917," ibid. 9 XII (1917), 12-16, 24-29, 33-39. 

Bringing Town to Country 47 

tralia, law of 1909 and included almost all of Mead's treasured ideas, 
providing an initial appropriation of $260,000 to begin a 10,000-acre 
project. 19 Mead became chairman of the Land Settlement Board which 
was created to implement the act. The board established the first 
project at Durham, Butte County, on 6,239 acres of carefully selected 
and surveyed land, which was divided into approximately 110 farm 
allotments and 30 farm laborers' allotments. The College of Agricul- 
ture of the University of California helped in the project, making 
surveys and classifying soils. America had never before seen what 
happened at Durham. The happy settler was greeted with fields of 
growing wheat, by an architect with varying house designs, and by 
a permanent farm adviser and business manager. The homes, which 
included electricity and running water, were quickly constructed at 
wholesale prices. 20 The settlers, carefully selected by Mead's Land 
Settlement Board, were judged on character and past farming ex- 
perience. Each settler could purchase his land with only a 5 per cent 
down payment, with the rest payable in twenty years at 5 per cent 
interest, along with additional loans for his house and farm equip- 
ment. Until paid for, the land could not be sold without the board's 
approval. The colonist had to remain on his land for eight months 
out of twelve for the first ten years, a requirement that was not as 
far-reaching as Mead had desired. 21 

The Durham Colony early appeared to be a great success. By 
1919 the state had appropriated an additional $1,000,000 for land 
settlement and had slightly amended the original act to give prefer- 
ence to returning soldiers. In 1919 the second colony, Delhi, was 
launched with even greater enthusiasm than had been Durham, per- 
haps because Delhi was planned for returning soldiers. Commissions 
and official delegates from more than forty foreign countries and 
one-half of the states visited the two colonies. 22 In Colorado, North 

19 Mead, Helping Men Own Farms, pp. 32, 108. 

20 California Department of Agriculture, Division of Land Settlement, Final 
Report, June 30, 1931 (Sacramento, 1931), pp. 3, 27; Elwood Mead, "Buying a 
Farm in the New Way: The Success of California's New Plan," Ladies Home 
Journal, XXXVI (June, 1919), 37. 

21 Mead, Helping Men Own Farms, pp. 215-228, and "Government Aid and 
Direction," pp. 78-79; Elwood Mead, "The New Forty Niners," Survey, XLVII 
(1921-1922), 653-654. 

22 Mead, "The New Forty Niners/' pp. 651, 654; California Department of 
Agriculture, Final Report, p. 27. 

48 Tomorrow a New World 

Carolina, and South Carolina similar state projects were contem- 
plated but never completed. In Arizona, Washington, Minnesota, and 
South Dakota projects were actually begun, but all were unsuccess- 
ful. In fact, all did not remain well in California. The minimum 
security for such expensive developments as Durham and Delhi was 
destroyed by the farm depression beginning in 1921. Durham, well 
launched and more soundly planned, survived without complete 
disaster. 23 In 1927 only about one-third of the settlers were seriously 
delinquent in their payments. 24 Delhi fared much worse. Begun in 
the inflation of 1919 and managed by overzealous employees of what 
was referred to as "the academic type," Delhi succumbed to the de- 
pression and was an almost complete financial loss to the state. After 
the expensive improvements, such as a $35,000 pipe factory and a 
$10,000 community hall, many of the settlers had to pay $400 an acre 
for their land, much of which was planted in fruit trees which could 
not bear for several years. By 1928 almost one-half of Delhi's 8,400 
acres were unsold. 25 By 1925 the California government, which had 
become increasingly hostile to farm settlement and which resented 
the $1,000,000 already apparently lost in the two colonies, was ready 
to withdraw from the business of land colonization as quickly as 
possible. Beginning in 1928, a laborious, involved, and embittering 
process of litigation was undertaken. By July, 1930, the State of 
California had finally effected a settlement with the colonists at 
Durham and Delhi. Mead, who had dreamed of four or five colonies 
each year in California, had to admit certain mistakes at Delhi, mis- 
takes for which he blamed the unpredicted depression, a hostile 
governor, and irresponsible colonists, but not the ideas that went into 
the colonies. 26 

The ideas of Elwood Mead quickly spread to Washington, giving 

23 Bertha Henderson, "State Policies in Agricultural Settlement," Journal of Land 
and Public Utility Economics, II (1926), 290-291; William A. Hartman, "State 
Policies in Regulating Land Settlement Activities," Journal of Farm Economics, 
XIII (1931), 261-262. 

24 California Department of Agriculture, Final Report, p. 9. 

' "The State Colony Settlements," Transactions of the Commonwealth Club of 
California, XVI (1921), 262-263, 267; Hartman, "State Policies in Regulating 
Land Settlement Activities," p. 261. 

26 "What of the Colony Plan of Land Settlement?" Agricultural Review, XVIII 
(April, 1925), 16-17; California Department of Agriculture, Final Report, pp. 

Bringing Town to Country 49 

form to a settlement plan already developed in the Department of 
Labor. As early as 1915, Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson pro- 
posed a new role for the federal government. He believed that the 
Department of Labor not only should seek jobs for the unemployed, 
but should create jobs through such utilization of the natural re- 
sources as would "tend to make opportunities for workers greater 
than demands for work and to keep them so." 27 He believed this 
possible, without a revolution, by properly using the public lands. 
His program, as then outlined, was general in nature. The public 
domain should be retained and enlarged by the purchase of unused 
private lands. Farm lands should be allotted to unemployed laborers, 
with such tenure arrangements as would prevent inflated land values. 
Finally, the settlers would be supplied credit, farming education, 
and marketing services. This program, he believed, would take the 
place of the antiquated homestead law and the frontier safety valve 
as a permanent relief for industrial distress. 28 In the reports of the 
Department of Labor for 1916, 1917, and 1918, Wilson again urgently 
advocated his plan, especially as a means of caring for the employ- 
ment needs of the returning soldiers. 29 His most comprehensive 
recommendation was for a permanent national board to carry out a 
resources development and colonization program, with duties even 
more comprehensive than those of Mead's California Land Settle- 
ment Board. It was proposed as a permanent source of employment, 
eliminating the distress of depressions. 30 

Secretary Wilson's colonization scheme was introduced into Con- 
gress in 1916 by Representative Robert Grosser of Ohio. The Grosser 
colonization bill provided for a colonization board, headed by the 
Secretary of Labor, but including the Secretaries of Agriculture and 
the Interior. In order to create employment for the urban unemployed, 

27 Department of Labor, Annual Report, 1915 (Washington, 1916), p. 44. 

28 Ibid., pp. 43-44. 

29 Department of Labor, Annual Report, 1916 (Washington, 1917), p. 73, An- 
nual Report, 1917 (Washington, 1918), p. 153, and Annual Report, 1918 (Washing- 
ton, 1919), pp. 145-146, 222-224. 

30 Benton Mackaye, "Making New Opportunity for Employment," in U.S. Depart- 
ment of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, VIII (1919), 
1067-1068; Benton Mackaye, Possibilities of Making New Opportunities for Em- 
ployment through the Settlement and Development of Agricultural and Forest 
Lands and Other Resources (U.S. Department of Labor; Washington, 1919), pp. 
19-21, 2&-33. 

50 Tomorrow a New World 

the board was to be empowered to examine and acquire land for 
farm colonies, either by purchase or by reserving public lands. After 
acquisition a detailed colonization plan was to be submitted to the 
President. The land in the developed colonies was to be permanently 
retained by the United States, with settlers acquiring leases only on 
land which they personally needed for the support of their families. 
If desired, two or more families could combine their land for co- 
operative farming. The lease would require a payment of 4 per cent 
of the development cost each year, for fifty years, and an additional 
payment in lieu of taxes. The bill provided for a beginning coloniza- 
tion fund of $50,000,000. The colonies were to be of a community 
type, with public services and government aid to co-operatives. 31 The 
Grosser bill, which anticipated so much of the New Deal community 
program, was defended by labor interests in a congressional hearing 
but was never referred for a vote. 32 

The widespread desire to provide opportunities for the returning 
soldiers of World War I provided the ideal setting for Elwood Mead 
to secure a national policy of directed land settlement and rural 
planning. He found an idealistic and effective ally in Franklin K. 
Lane, Secretary of the Interior. According to Mead, it was partly be- 
cause of an invitation from Lane that he returned from Australia to 
the United States in 1915. 33 In 1918 Mead left his California settle- 
ments to join Lane in Washington, where he worked in the reclama- 
tion section of the Department of the Interior. Together, Lane and 
Mead planned and promoted a scheme for soldier settlement that, 
for a period of over two years, was to secure national acclaim and 
widespread publicity. 

On May 31, 1918, Secretary Lane sent a much-publicized letter 
to President Wilson in which he proposed a national soldier settlement 
program. In the past returning soldiers had received bounties in land. 
Although no frontier existed in 1918, Lane believed that the soldiers 
of World War I, acclimated to an out-of-doors existence, would still 
want opportunities to go on farms, not in the old pioneer fashion, 

31 House Committee on Labor, Hearings on H.R. 11329, National Coloniza- 
tion Bill, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., 1916, pp. 5-10. 

32 Ibid., pp. 10-11, 23, 31, 41-42, 51-65. 

33 Senate Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, Hearings on S. 2015, Crea- 
tion of Organized Rural Communities to Demonstrate the Benefits of Planned 
Settlement, 70th Cong., 1st Sess., 1928, p. 7. 

Bringing Town to Country 51 

but in the new, Mead-developed methods of colonization, with pre- 
development, security, and community life. These opportunities could 
be provided by a large-scale reclamation program, extending beyond 
arid lands to the swamps and cutover lands of every state in the 
Union. The soldiers could cease killing enemies and start develop- 
ing resources, at the same time creating their own future homes. It 
all should be done, said Lane, upon "a definite planning basis," each 
project being as carefully planned as "the city of Washington." 34 
The plan was endorsed by Woodrow Wilson, who saw in it a part of 
the enlarged public works program proposed by the Department of 
Labor. In one of his last statements, Theodore Roosevelt vigorously 
defended the idea. 35 

Franklin K. Lane combined Jeffersonian agrarianism with a con- 
cept of enlarged governmental responsibility. He believed it time 
that the nation provide not merely soldiers, but every man in the 
United States, an opportunity for employment. 36 In the Department 
of the Interior, Lane was most interested in "locking-forward work" 
or in so planning for the future as to prevent in America "those ills 
which have fallen upon other lands." 37 This looking forward was, to 
Lane as to Mead, primarily concentrated upon the agricultural situation. 
To Lane, the "spirit of democracy does not thrive where men live 
without the hope of land ownership. There is something peculiarly 
subtle in the feeling that a bit of the soil is one's own. It makes for 
a stronger, higher citizenship. It gives birth to loyalties that are es- 
sential to national life and to a healthy home life." 38 To be assured 
a living, as farmers are, is at the very center of "the free life of a 
democracy." The soldiers, used to a life of doing, of close companion- 
ship, of suffering, would return as men, not boys. According to Lane 
they would want a man's life on returning, or a chance to make their 
way on a farm. But they would not want the lack of society, the 
distance between homes, the remote post office and newspaper, and 

34 Department of the Interior, Annual Report for the Fiscal Year Ended June 
30, 1918 (Washington, 1919), pp. 24-29. 

35 Senate Committee on the Public Lands, Work and Homes for Returning Sol- 
diers, Sailors, and Marines, Report no. 780 to accompany S. 5652, 65th Cong., 
3d Sess., 1919, pp. 6-7. 

66 Ibid., p. 30. 

87 Department of the Interior, Annual Report, June 30, 1918, p. 3. 

"Ibid., p. 11. 

52 Tomorrow a New World 

the poor schools of most rural life. The longing in the heart for con- 
tact with the soil had, because of these adverse conditions, often 
turned to a passion for the city. The only solution to the problem, 
according to Lane, was to develop a new rural life with all the urban 
advantages in fact, to marry the two. He believed that the United 
States should turn to the farm village, as Europe had, or to settle- 
ment around a community center which could contain the advantages 
of city life. Co-operation could banish isolation; there could be motion 
pictures and baseball teams, and "there'll be a dance every week in 
the community house." 39 Lane summed up his dreams in the follow- 
ing picture: "all these farms which shall not be large, but large 
enough to support a man, his wife, and three or four children, but 
not large enough to make a basis of speculation small farms, in- 
tensively cultivated, sufficient for a man and his family; with a cen- 
tral community, and that community having the telephone, and good 
roads, and the telegraph and the post office, and the good school, 
and the bank, and the good store all close together, so that the women 
can talk across the back fence and the man can meet his neigh- 
bors." 40 

Lane's soldier settlement idea resulted in a full-scale national de- 
bate. As individuals and through the Department of the Interior, 
Lane and Mead continued to be the spokesmen for the measure, de- 
fending it as a means of saving the labor market from collapse, of 
stopping the alarming movement of people to the cities, of develop- 
ing American resources, and of setting up throughout the United 
States examples of the most modern patterns of farm settlement. 41 
Frederic Howe wrote a book to raise support for the plan, fervently 
defending it as a step toward economic democracy in America. 42 The 
American Legion endorsed the measure, as could be expected. 43 As 

39 Henry Irving Dodge, "Back to the Land for Soldiers: An Interview with 
Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior," Country Gentleman, LXXXIV (Feb. 
15, 1919), 46. 

40 Franklin K. Lane, "Bringing Unused Land into Service," American City, XX 
(1919), 318. 

41 Department of the Interior, Annual Report, June 30, 1918, p. 6. 
^Frederic C. Howe, The Land and the Soldier (New York, 1919), pp. 5-13. 
43 House Committee on the Public Lands, National Soldier Settlement Act, Re- 
port no. 216 to accompany H.R. 487, 66th Cong., 1st Sess., 1919, p. 10. 

Bringing Town to Country 53 

always when reclamation measures were proposed, the farmers and 
farm organizations were the largest element in opposition. A repre- 
sentative of the National Grange branded the soldier settlement idea 
as "fundamentally un-American, un-democratic, undesirable, and inde- 
fensible." He believed it "paternalistic, socialistic, communistic, bolshe- 
vistic, or anything of that kind." He asked why the soldiers had to be 
set up to compete with farmers; why not in manufacturing or busi- 
ness? Then all the city people would not back it so strongly. 44 Senator 
James W. Wadsworth of New York cited the then hated Germans 
as an example of the products of the government paternalism that 
was implied in the Lane proposal. He declared the whole scheme a 
fizzle, a publicity stunt to attract the soldiers who wanted something 
for nothing. 45 Perhaps the most important opinion should have been 
that of the soldier. By an eye-catching booklet entitled Hey There! 
Do You Want a Home on the Farm? Lane tried to arouse the soldiers' 
interest, although his method was later severely criticized. From 
900,000 of these booklets, which included return postal cards, Lane 
received 119,000 cards and 65,000 letters, almost all favorable or 
interested. 46 

At least a dozen soldier settlement measures were introduced into 
Congress. Only the first of these, a bill that appropriated $200,000 
for a preliminary investigation of the public lands available for 
soldier settlement, ever passed both houses. 47 The most important 
bill, introduced by Representative Frank W. Mondell of Wyoming, 
was in part written by Elwood Mead and was very similar to the 
California Land Settlement Act. It provided for federal-state co- 
operation and a beginning appropriation of $500,000,000. 48 Soldier 
settlement bills were extensively debated in committee hearings, were 

44 House Committee on the Public Lands, Hearings on H.R. 487, Homes for 
Soldiers, Part 1, 66th Cong., 1st Sess., 1919, pp. 72-74. 

40 House Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, Hearings on H.R. 11171 
and H.R. 12083, Aided and Directed Settlement on Proposed Government Irriga- 
tion Projects, 68th Cong., 2d Sess., 1925, p. 47; lames W. Wadsworth, "Land 
Settlement Problems to Be Solved by Self-Help and Not by Government Paternal- 
ism/' Sea Power, Nov., 1919, pp. 237-239. 

46 U.S. House of Representatives, Farms for Soldiers, House Document no. 173, 
66th Cong., 1st Sess., 1919, pp. 1-2. 

47 C.R., 65th Cong, 2d Sess., 1918, pp. 11590-11592. 

48 House Committee on the Public Lands, Hearings on H.R. 487, pp. 3-7, 27. 

54 Tomorrow a New World 

reported favorably by both Senate and House committees, and one 
bill was passed in the House in 1920. 49 A surviving version was in- 
corporated into a bonus bill that was eventually vetoed by President 
Harding. 50 The only substantial reward granted to soldiers was a 
sixty-day homestead privilege on all public lands open to entry. 51 
Thirty-seven states passed some type of soldier settlement legisla- 
tion, but almost all of these bills were dependent upon federal action. 
Except for Delhi, the only notable soldier settlement was in con- 
junction with an agricultural training program for disabled veterans at 
the University of Minnesota and under the sponsorship of the Veterans' 
Administration. 52 The twenties were to show that the need for small 
farm development was not great enough to sustain the early public 
interest. Even the soldiers preferred cash bonuses to farming op- 
portunities. 53 

Even though soldier settlement failed in Congress, Elwood Mead's 
prestige did not suffer greatly, for he was still the most prominent 
irrigation authority in the United States. As such his talents were 
not tied to politics. Moreover, the first object of his reforming zeal, 
the Reclamation Service, was still in existence, operating under the 
virtually unchanged Newlands Act of 1902. But in the twenties the 
old reclamation program proved inadequate. With the farm recession 
that began in 1921 and lasted throughout the twenties, many settlers 
on irrigation projects suffered financial distress, requiring a series of 
leniency acts to relieve them of monthly payments to the govern- 
ment. These moratoriums prejudiced the whole future of reclamation, 

49 C.R., 65th Cong., 3d Sess., 1919, pp. 4855, 4856; ibid., 66th Cong., 1st Sess., 
1919, pp. 4370, 4375; House Committee on the Public Lands, National Soldier 
Settlement Act, Report no. 216, p. 7, and Hearings on H.R. 487, pp. 17-18; Golze, 
Reclamation in the United States, p. 368. 

50 U.S. Senate, Forestry, Reclamation, and Home-making Conference, 1923, 
Document no. 120, 68th Cong., 1st Sess., 1923, p. 14. 

51 House Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, Hearings on H.R. 520, Set- 
tlement of Returning Veterans on Farms in Reclamation Projects, 79th Cong., 1st 
Sess., 1945, pp. 90-91. 

52 Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, "Nation-wide Approval 
of Secretary Lane's Soldier-Settlement Plan," Reclamation Record, X (1919), pp. 
195-196; U.S. Veterans' Bureau, Annual Report of the Director for the Year End- 
ing June 30, 1922 (Washington, 1922), p. 322; Hartman, "State Policies in Regu- 
lating Land Settlement," p. 262. 

53 House Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, Hearings on H.R. 520, pp. 

Bringing Town to Country 55 

which was already under attack because of mounting agricultural 
surpluses. 54 In 1923 Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work ap- 
pointed a special fact-finding committee to investigate the whole 
reclamation program and report their findings. One of the seven 
members of this committee was Elwood Mead, who had again been 
in Australia and in Palestine as a reclamation consultant of the British 
Government. 55 

The report (called the Fact Finders' Report) of the special com- 
mittee opened a new era for reclamation in the United States. The 
report was obviously much influenced by Mead's ideas, for it advo- 
cated his type of settlement and stressed human factors as well as 
engineering techniques. In brief, the committee advocated govern- 
ment-developed projects, long-term credit, directed and supervised 
agriculture, and a careful selection of settlers. 56 In April, 1924, Secre- 
tary Work appointed Elwood Mead as Commissioner of the newly 
created Bureau of Reclamation (the old Reclamation Service), a 
position that he was to retain until his death in 1936. As Commis- 
sioner, Mead tried to implement the Fact Finders' Report and to re- 
orientate the bureau toward a greater consideration of human values. 57 
Congress refused to implement all of the committee's recommenda- 
tions, rejecting bills for aided and directed settlement in 1925 and 
1928. 58 It did pass an act in 1926 that permitted a careful selection 
of settlers by a Board of Examiners. 59 The failure of Congress to ap- 
prove any further revision in reclamation policy can, in part at 
least, be attributed to the hostility of agricultural groups and even 
to the open hostility of the Department of Agriculture. But as Com- 
missioner, Mead had the honor of planning some of the largest recla- 
mation projects in the world, including Hoover Dam on the Colorado 

64 Lampen, Economic and Social Aspects of Federal Reclamation, p. 61. 

55 U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, "Special Advisors 
Continue Reclamation Analysis," Reclamation Record, XV (Jan., 1924), p. 3. 

56 U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, "Impending Reclama- 
tion Disaster May Be Averted," Reclamation Record, XV (May, 1924), pp. 68-69. 

57 Elwood Mead, "What Federal Reclamation Should Include," Agricultural 
Engineering, VII (1926), 237. 

58 House Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, Hearings on H.R. 11171 
and H.R. 12083, pp. 1-3, 4-19, 37-87, and Hearings on H.R. 9956, Aided and 
Directed Settlement on Government Irrigation Projects, 70th Cong., 1st Sess., 
1928, pp. 1-2, 68-64. 

59 Mead, "What Federal Reclamation Should Include," p. 238. 

56 Tomorrow a New World 

(the lake was named for him) and Grand Coulee on the Columbia. 
Although Mead could not get his settlement ideas incorporated 
into the regular reclamation program, he found extensive support 
for planned agricultural settlements in the South. After the failure 
of soldier settlement, which would have meant projects in the swamp- 
lands of the South, many Southerners continued to seek an expan- 
sion of reclamation to the South. In December, 1924, Congress au- 
thorized an appropriation of $15,000 to be used by Secretary Work 
and the Bureau of Reclamation in investigating the possibilities of 
developing arid, semiarid, swamp, and cutover lands. Work used this 
small sum to investigate opportunities in the South, sending a special 
advisory committee that was accompanied by Elwood Mead. 60 These 
advisers called for experimental farm colonies in every Southern 
state. Except for the lack of irrigation, each was to resemble Durham 
and Delhi. It was hoped that the colonies, which were to include 
farmers and farm laborers, would demonstrate the value of a planned, 
diversified agriculture to an agriculturally backward South. In 1927 
a congress of representative Southerners met with Mead in Washing- 
ton to study the plans, and Southern congressmen introduced ap- 
propriate bills in each house of Congress. These bills, which in most 
details anticipated the rural resettlement communities of the New 
Deal, were reported favorably, but never came to a vote. 61 President 
Coolidge opposed them as being against his economic policy. 62 Two 
of the most loyal advocates of these Southern colonies, Senator John 
H. Bankhead and Representative William B. Bankhead of Alabama, 
were later to lead the legislative fight for subsistence homesteads 

60 U.S. Senate, Proceedings of the Southern Reclamation Conference, p. iii; U.S. 
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Reclamation and Rural De- 
velopment in the South, in House Document no. 765, pt. i, 69th Cong., 2d Sess., 
1927, p. 2. 

61 U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Reclamation and 
Rural Development in the South, pp. 1-3, 38; U.S. Senate, Proceedings of the 
Southern Reclamation Conference, pp. iv, 1-5, 8-15; Senate Committee on Irriga- 
tion and Reclamation, Hearings on S. 2015, pp. 1-3; House Committee on Irriga- 
tion and Reclamation, Creation of Organized Rural Communities, Report no. 1217 
to accompany H.R. 8221, 70th Cong., 1st Sess., 1928, pp. 1-8; C.R., 70th Cong., 
1st Sess., 1928, p. 9353. 

62 House Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, Creation of Organized Rural 
Communities, p. 8. 

Bringing Town to Country 57 

As reclamation became increasingly unpopular in the twenties, 
its advocates were forced into a dilemma not of their own choosing. 
In 1918, with booming agricultural prices and a seemingly inex- 
haustible foreign market, reclamation and the more intensive farm- 
ing it required seemed almost a necessity. But during the twenties 
the prices dropped and the market fell. The advocates of reclamation, 
mostly from the Western states, and the bitter foes of reclamation, 
mostly Midwestern or Eastern farmers, were alike influenced by their 
own selfish interests. Nevertheless the Midwestern farmers were more 
in line with reality. Whether because of the lingering exuberance of a 
young, rapidly expanding nation or because of a failure to compre- 
hend the implications of ever-newer advances in technology, many 
Americans had difficulty in adjusting to the idea of a surplus economy. 
Yet it already existed in agriculture, which has a much more rigid 
ceiling of demand than most other industries. Despite Elwood Mead's 
laudable application of economics to reclamation and despite all his 
human-centered planning, the inescapable fact remained that, from 
the viewpoint of the over-all economy, further expensive reclamation 
projects could not be justified by any need for increased agricultural 
production. 63 In fact, the reclamation projects were having a demon- 
strably harmful effect on farm prices. Thus, during the twenties a 
sizable departmental conflict developed between the Departments 
of Agriculture and the Interior. The farm economists, from a large, 
national view of economic trends, constantly deplored any new farm 
development and questioned the logic of more emphasis upon the 
small farm. They even referred to the proposed Southern colonies as 
beginning steps toward economic peonage. 64 It was not that the agri- 
culturalists questioned Mead's emphasis on planning, but rather that 
they questioned the ability of the Department of the Interior to plan 
for agriculture. They believed that, from a national viewpoint, a 
planned reduction of farming acreage and production, not further 
development, was demanded. Henry C. Wallace, as Secretary of 
Agriculture in 1924, bitterly stated the farmers' opposition to reclama- 

63 Frank P. Willits, "The Futility of Further Development of Irrigation Projects," 
Anna/5 of the American Academy, CXLII (1929), 186-195. 

04 Millard Peck, "Reclamation Projects and Their Relation to Agricultural De- 
pression," Annals of the American Academy, CXLII (1929), 179-180, 184-185; 
Louis J. Taber, "Reclamation in Dollars and Sense," Nations Business, XVI ( Sept., 
1928), 69. 

58 Tomorrow a New World 

tion: "Reclamation policies should grow out of public needs and agri- 
cultural possibilities and not out of the dreams of engineers or the 
ambitions of empire builders who wish to 'develop the country' usually 
for the benefit of their own pocketbooks and at the expense of the 
hungry home seeker." 65 

To an optimistic, growing America, Elwood Mead had proclaimed 
a new type of magic the magic of governmental planning and or- 
ganization. This magic, freely applied to the development of rural 
communities, was to bring salvation to a declining agriculture and, 
indirectly, to a whole nation. Although the magic did not always 
work well when tried, as in California, it retained a tremendous 
appeal for many people. Mead's work in community building, un- 
fortunately for him, was always connected with the reclamation and 
development of new agricultural resources. But Mead's magic was 
not necessarily tied to expansion, to optimism, to development, to 
reclamation. In the New Deal it was to be utilized in subsistence 
homesteads communities that were born in deepest pessimism over 
the economic future of America. A little later it was to be applied, 
in purest form, to rural resettlement communities that, at least theoreti- 
cally, were to complement a large program of land retirement and 
population displacement. 

65 Henry C. Wallace, "A National Agricultural Program A Farm Management 
Problem," Journal of Farm Economics, VI (1924), 6-7. 


Bringing the Country to the Town 

EVEN as Elwood Mead was applying the magic of planning to 
rural problems, an ever-growing number of people in the cities were 
attempting to apply the same magic to urban problems. By 1900 a 
few urbanites were decrying narrow streets and unhealthy slums 
and were demanding, among other reforms, some public control over 
future urban growth, as well as the imposition of some plan or pat- 
tern on past unregulated development. Thus the group of emerging 
city planners were confronted with problems never faced by Elwood 
Mead, for in the case of his reclamation projects the planning agency 
owned and controlled the land area to be developed. But even in 
urban expansion the city planning agency usually did not own the 
land and had to persuade or legally compel private individuals to 
conform to the public interest as reflected in development plans. Ex- 
cept for limited land purchases by the municipal government, any 
attempts to remedy past mistakes in city growth immediately con- 
fronted entrenched private interests. Faced with these difficult prob- 
lems, city planners, or city patchers, were usually too concerned with 
the purely spatial or physical planning of streets and buildings to 
give much time to the smaller details of social planning, such as co- 
operation, economic security, and a healthy social intercourse, that 
typified much of Mead's rural planning. Even as Mead, on the rural 
scene, had turned from the problems of past misplanning to the freer, 


60 Tomorrow a New World 

more appealing adventure of constructing small models of a new agri- 
cultural order, a few city planners turned from the frustrating prob- 
lems of the older cities to the exhilarating task of building completely 
new and more perfect towns or suburban communities, each com- 
bining the spaciousness and beauty of the country with the social 
and economic advantages of the city. These latter planners greatly 
influenced the New Deal communities, particularly the greenbelt 

Just as Elwood Mead's crusade for guided and directed settlement 
was an attempt to resurrect an established policy of colonial New 
England, so the new emphasis on city planning marked the rebirth 
of a lost art in America, for in colonial times there had been notable 
examples of city planning. A zoning law for the Massachusetts Bay 
Colony was passed under William and Mary. Savannah and Phila- 
delphia were carefully planned by their proprietary founders. 1 This 
planning emphasis was still potent enough to influence George Wash- 
ington and Thomas Jefferson to co-operate in the planning of a beauti- 
ful national capital which still remains a proud monument to the 
use of foresight in the laying out of cities. Jefferson carefully studied 
European cities and dutifully brought back from Europe the plans of 
eleven cities, mostly French. Unfortunately more Washingtons, more 
carefully planned cities, were not forthcoming. For some reason nine- 
teenth-century cities grew without objectives or conscious direction. 
Like Jefferson's ideas on controlled land settlement, city planning 
also disappeared in the rush to conquer a continent. American cities 
just grew, and the results were as unfortunate as those of an uncon- 
trolled rural development. 

Soon after the Civil War, Frederick Law Olmsted, the pioneer of 
modern American city planners, began using vision and skill in plan- 
ning parks and thoroughfares, with Central Park in New York City 
his best-known monument. 2 In 1869 plans were developed for two 
completely new towns, Riverside, Illinois, and Garden City, Long 
Island. Garden City marked the first use of a term which was later 
to have a very definite and significant meaning in city planning. 
Alexander T. Stewart, a New York department store owner, acquired 
8,000 acres on Long Island where, by the time of his death in 1876, 

1 Thomas Adams, Outline of Town and City Planning (New York, 1935), p. 120. 

2 Ibid., p. 167. 

Bringing Country to Town 61 

he had created a truly spacious village of 102 homes. Garden City 
later received national fame as the site of a large publishing house. 3 
Before 1900 several small towns and villages were carefully planned, 
including the single-tax colony of Fairhope, Alabama, and the indus- 
trial villages of Pullman, Illinois; Sparrowspoint, Maryland; Vander- 
grift, Pennsylvania; and Hopedale, Massachusetts. 4 In 1893 the beauti- 
ful White City exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair led to a revival 
of interest in city beautification and in the civic possibilities that had 
been neglected in a period of rapid industrialization. Just before 1900 
L'Enfant's original plan of Washington was rediscovered, leading to 
a revival of the plan by a newly appointed District Park Commis- 
sion. 5 During the next few years a score of advisory city plans were 
drawn for cities throughout the country by such emerging planners 
as John Nolen, Frederick Law Olmsted, Daniel Burnham, and Charles 
M. Robinson. 6 Just as the century turned, the English garden city 
added a new perspective to American city planning. 

The garden city idea, which was originated by Ebenezer Howard, 
an evangelical but nonviolent London reformer and court reporter, 
was quickly adopted and implemented in England by technically 
qualified city planners. The idea was too visionary for much practical 
application in replanning older cities, but inspired the design of new 
towns or additions and eventually provided the pattern for the green- 
belt communities of the New Deal. Howard was influenced by the 
social enthusiasm engendered in England by the Fabians, by Ruskin's 
economic ideas, by the Christian Social Union and the settlement 
house movement, and by the ideas of Henry George, Robert Owen, 
and Edward Bellamy. In a book published in 1898 Howard, utilizing 
city plans or colonization schemes developed by James Silk Bucking- 
ham, Alfred Marshall, Edward G. Wakefield, Sir Titus Salt, George 
Cadbury, and William H. Lever, proposed an appealing marriage 

3 Thomas Adams, "The Planning and Subdivision of Land," in Neighborhood 
and Community Planning, vol. VII of Regional Survey of New York and Its 
Environs (New York, 1929), pp. 257-258. 

4 Adams, Outline of Town and City Planning, pp. 168, 177-178. 

5 Frederick Law Olmsted, "The Town Planning Movement in America," Annals 
of the American Academy, LI (1914), 179. 

6 Theodora Kimball Hubbard and Henry Vincent Hubbard, Our Cities Today 
and Tomorrow: A Survey of Planning and Zoning Progress in the United States 
(Cambridge, Mass., 1929), pp. 5-6. 

62 Tomorrow a New World 

of town and country by the construction of a city that would be lim- 
ited in size by, and organically related to, an encircling belt of rural 
countryside. 7 Howard believed that crowded, slum-infested cities were 
an evil, but from a visit to a farm in Nebraska, Howard had also dis- 
covered the trials of an isolated, unco-operative rural life. Thus he 
wished to combine the magnetic attractions of both city and country 
by combining the higher wages, employment opportunities, social ad- 
vantages, and well-lit streets of the cities with the beauty of nature, 
fresh air, low rents, bright sunshine, woods, meadows, and forests 
of the country. 8 

To combine city and country Howard proposed the development 
of a completely new garden city in a rural setting. In order to realize 
all of his ideas, Howard proposed that the land for both the city 
and the surrounding greenbelt be owned by trustees who, as owners, 
would be able to develop a carefully planned, spacious, well-rounded 
industrial city of a limited size, set in the midst of prosperous farm 
land. The city would reap the health benefits and aesthetic rewards 
of nearby forests and farms, and the equally fortunate farmers would 
have the ready market and social pleasures of a nearby town. The 
rapidly rising value of the land, occasioned by a growing city, Howard 
believed, would result in ground rents sufficient to cover all develop- 
ment costs and, with the original investors receiving only a limited 
dividend as profit, would also pay for all municipal services. Thus 
the city dwellers as a whole, and not a few speculators, would re- 
ceive the benefits of the social increment. 9 

As a model for a garden city Howard proposed a schematic, circu- 
lar town plan that was probably too unrealistic to be of any value. 
But the principles underlying the garden city idea became permanent 
attributes of garden city planning in England and all over the world. 
The garden city was to be a method of decentralizing both industry 
and population. It was to be a city of limited size, eternally pro- 

7 Dugald Macfadyen, Sir Ebenezer Howard and the Town Planning Movement 
(Manchester, Eng., 1933), pp. 12, 18, 20-21, 33; James Silk Buckingham, Na- 
tional Evils and Practical Remedies (London, 1849), pp. 110-135; James Dahir, 
Communities for Better Living (New York, 1950), p. 110; Frederic J. Osborn, 
Green-Belt Cities: The British Contribution (London, 1946), p. 176; Adams, 
Outline of Town and City Planning, pp. 270-271. 

8 Ebenezer Howard, Garden Cities of Tomorrow (3d ed.; London, 1902), pp. 

9 Ibid., pp. 20-22, 28-29; Osborn, Green-Belt Cities, p. 27. 

Bringing Country to Town 63 

hibited from sprawling growth by its greenbelt. 10 The plan of the 
city would be enforceable through the very effective expedient of a 
unified or community ownership of all the land. All private homes, 
all industry, and all businesses were to be constructed on leased land, 
with certain prescribed building agreements written into the leases. 
As Howard conceived it, a garden city would be a balanced city of 
about 30,000 people, including laborers, capitalists, professional peo- 
ple, and businessmen. Except for Howard's desire that the city control 
retail outlets in the interest of the consumer, the business life of a 
garden city was to be very similar to that of any other town. 11 Howard 
envisioned a rapid growth of garden cities. They were to be units 
in a new civilization, replacing slum-infested cities with beautiful 
home towns, with parks and gardens, surrounded by green farms. If 
followed resolutely, this new path to reform would "lead society to 
a far higher destiny than it has ever yet ventured to hope for," 
Howard believed. 12 It would be the key "to a portal through which, 
even when scarce ajar, will be seen to pour a flood of light on the 
problems of intemperance, of excessive toil, of restless anxiety, of 
grinding poverty the true limits of Government interference, ay, 
and even the relations of man to the Supreme Power." 13 To Howard, 
garden cities alone could develop better, healthier housing conditions, 
lead to a higher purchasing power for labor, provide everyone with 
the amenities of life, and give cultural advantages to agriculture. 

Ebenezer Howard never thought of his garden city idea as a specu- 
lative utopia. Rather, he saw it as the foundation of a new civiliza- 
tion which could be realized only as his ideas bore practical results. 
Through his book and public lectures Howard found ready support 
for garden cities. After one year of personal campaigning Howard 
formed the Garden City Association in June, 1899. Supported early 
by single taxers and soon thereafter by businessmen, the association 
became the nucleus of the city planning movement in England and 
rapidly raised enough support to construct the first garden city. In 
April, 1903, a 3,818-acre (later increased to 4,500 acres) plot of land 
was purchased in Hertfordshire. Here, under the direction of a 
limited-dividend company, the first garden city, Letchworth, was be- 

10 Osbom, Green-Belt Cities, pp. 32-33. 

"Howard, Garden Cities, pp. 72, 76-79. M Ibid., p. 115. 

13 Ibid., p. 13. 

64 Tomorrow a New World 

gun in October, 1903. 14 Although Howard remained the evangel 
of garden cities, Letchworth was planned by two technically qualified 
architects, Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker. Unwin, Parker, and the 
first secretary of the Garden City Association, Thomas Adams, were 
to become world famous as city planners. The plan of the city of 
Letchworth, which was adapted to an undulating terrain, included 
large open spaces for parks and playgrounds. The industrial areas 
were placed on the edge of town and separated from residential 
areas by strips of forest land. The development company retained 
freehold possession of the land, both in the city and in the 3,000-acre 
greenbelt, and leased it to individuals or corporations on 99- or 990- 
year leases. 15 Letchworth grew slowly but steadily into a mixed in- 
dustrial city of 22,000 people in 1947. Departing only slightly from 
the ideas of Howard, it became a world-famous model of new city 
planning techniques. In 1919, under the personal initiative of Howard, 
a second garden city, Welwyn, was begun. Financed by government 
loans, Welwyn grew more rapidly than Letchworth and exhibited a 
greater architectural unity. 16 Though many of the ideas have been 
widely copied, Letchworth and Welwyn remain until this day the 
only true garden cities (as Howard defined the term). 

The visual demonstration of Ebenezer Howard's ideas at Letch- 
worth led to a world-wide garden city movement. In its idealism 
appealing to the broadest public, as well as to city planners, the 
garden city movement led to a virtual renaissance of city planning in 
England. By 1909 the Garden City Association had become a town 
planning organization with an emphasis on new towns of the garden 
city type. From all over the world it received inquiries about Letch- 
worth or about city planning. 17 In 1914 the International Federation 

14 Macfadyen, Sir Ebenezer Howard, pp. 25, 39; Frederic J. Osborn, "Planning 
in Great Britain: The Part of Voluntary Societies," Journal of the American In- 
stitute of Planners, XIV (Summer, 1948), 22-23; Charles B. Purdom, The Garden 
City: A Study in the Development of a Modern Town (London, 1913), p. 31. 

15 Sir Edgar Bonham Carter, "Garden Cities and Satellite Towns and Decen- 
tralization," Journal of the Town Planning Institute, XVI (Nov., 1929), 14-18; 
Purdom, The Garden City, pp. 291-293. 

16 Frederic J. Osborn, "New Towns in Britain," Journal of the American In- 
stitute of Planners, XIII (Winter, 1947), 7-8; Macfadyen, Sir Ebenezer Howard, 
pp. 101102; Dahir, Communities for Better Living, p. 117. 

17 Ewart G. Culpin, Garden City Movement Up-to-Date (London, 1914), p. 17; 
Purdom, The Garden City, pp. 298-299. 

Bringing Country to Town 65 

for Town and Country Planning and Garden Cities was formed, with 
societies in most European countries, in the British Dominions, and 
in the United States. 18 It was to remain the most important interna- 
tional city planning organization. In England and in other countries 
the creation of Letchworth led to a flurry of so-called garden cities, 
garden villages, or garden suburbs. None of these were true garden 
cities, according to Howard's definition, but each utilized at least 
one garden city principle. The promiscuous use of the term "garden 
city" led Howard and others to make unavailing attempts to halt 
the confusion by more careful definitions. By 1913 there were over 
fifty developments in England which reflected garden city ideas. 19 
The final vindication for Howard came in the influence of garden 
cities on English national policy, despite Howard's greater faith in 
private philanthropy. In a succession of laws England moved toward 
a national city planning and housing program which reflected 
Howard's emphasis on a unified landownership, decentralized small- 
town development, and low-priced housing for industrial workers. In 
England this trend culminated in 1946 and 1947 in the virtual aboli- 
tion of private land development and in the adoption of the garden 
city or new towns idea for reconstructing a war-torn England. Long 
before this Sir Ebenezer Howard (he was knighted in 1927 in recog- 
nition of his work for garden cities ) had died in his beloved Welwyn. 20 
The garden city idea, which was not to find complete expression in 
the United States until the appearance of the greenbelt communities 
of the New Deal, caused a flurry of excitement after it became gen- 
erally known in the United States, but at first did not seriously affect 
the developing city planning movement. Garden cities were too vis- 
ionary for men who were laboring to patch up the mistakes of past 
misplanning in our older cities. But as a result of the publicity given 
to Letchworth in popular magazines, many private individuals were 
impressed with Howard's idealism. In 1906 a Garden City Associa- 

18 Ebenezer Howard, "A Greeting from the President of the International Federa- 
tion," City Planning, I (1925), 31. 

10 Culpin, Garden City Movement, pp. 1-2, 19-47. 

20 James W. R. Adams, Modern Town and Country Planning (London, 1952), 
pp. 34, 46-50, 51-52, 56, 66-71, 117; "The British Town and Country Planning 
Bill, 1947," Journal of the American Institute of Planners, XIII (Winter, 1947), 
27-28 (reprinted from an article in the Economist, Jan. 11, 1947); Macfadyen, 
Sir Ebenezer Howard, p. 158. 

66 Tomorrow a New World 

tion of America was formed by William D. P. Bliss, an Episcopal 
minister and Christian Socialist; August Belmont, a New York banker; 
Bishop Henry C. Potter of the Episcopal Church; Elgin R. L. Gould, 
president of the City and Suburban Homes Company, an enterprise 
designed to improve the living environment of New York wage earn- 
ers; and other interested individuals. It gave highly idealistic support 
to the garden city idea but limited itself to advising industrialists on 
how to apply garden city principles to their planned villages. Bliss 
reported projects in five states, but none even closely resembled 
Letchworth or Welwyn. 21 For the more realistic professional planners, 
the main progress was in planning for the older cities. In 1909 the 
first great advisory plan was adopted by Chicago. On the sponsoring 
committee for the plan was Frederic A. Delano, whose advocacy 
of planned cities was later an inspiration to his nephew, Franklin 
D. Roosevelt, and who was, in the New Deal, to head the National 
Resources Committee, our first national planning agency. 22 In 1909 
the first national conference of city planners convened in Washington. 
In this and subsequent conferences the city planners heard detailed 
reports on the English garden cities, but were more interested in the 
possibilities of zoning legislation. 23 In a milestone in city planning, 
New York City adopted a comprehensive zoning law in 1916. Zoning 
was finally upheld by the Supreme Court in 1926. 24 

Before 1920 a few new towns were planned with garden city at- 
tributes. In 1910 the Russell Sage Foundation, a long-time supporter 
of better city planning, financed a model residential suburb in New 
York City, Forest Hills Gardens, which was advertised as a garden 
city. 25 In 1912 Torrance, California, was described by its industrialist 
founder, Jared S. Torrance, as the "greatest and best of the garden 
cities of the world." 26 In 1914 a small suburb near Boston, Billerica 

21 Royal Meeker, review of Garden Cities of Tomorrow, by Ebenezer Howard, 
Municipal Affairs, VI ( 1902), 287-290; "The Garden City Association of America," 
Charities and the Commons, XVII (1906-1907), 286; "Garden Cities in America," 
ibid., XVIII (1907-1908), 114. 

22 Adams, Outline of Town and City Planning, pp. 202-203. 

23 Senate Committee on the District of Columbia, Hearings on City Planning, 
in Senate Document no. 422, 61st Cong., 2d Sess., 1909, p. 79. 

24 Hubbard and Hubbard, Our Cities Today and Tomorrow, p. 7; Stuart A. Mac- 
Corkle, Municipal Administration (New York, 1942), p. 331. 

^"Garden City Platted by Russell Sage Foundation," Survey, XXV (1910- 
1911), 309-310. 
20 Dana W. Bartlett, "Torrance," American City, IX (1913), 311. 

Bringing Country to Town 67 

Garden Suburb, was carefully planned, had a limited-dividend cor- 
poration, and encouraged resident co-operation. 27 In 1916 John Nolen, 
one of America's foremost city planners, designed a completely new, 
diversified industrial town at Kingsport, Tennessee, with rigid zoning 
laws but no greenbelt. 28 Many other developments used the name 
garden city, which now had a commercial value, but as yet the United 
States did not have even a close approximation of Howard's ideal 

In 1917 the garden city idea received serious congressional atten- 
tion. Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas secured the acceptance of 
a resolution praising the garden city movement and requesting a 
hearing on garden cities by his Committee on Agriculture and For- 
estry. The hearings led to no legislation, but did provide the Senators 
with a complete picture of Letchworth as given by an enthusiastic 
American proponent of garden cities. 29 More important, in World 
War I the American government, for the first time, entered the field 
of city planning and public housing. Both the Emergency Fleet Cor- 
poration and a short-lived United States Housing Corporation con- 
structed housing for defense workers and used planning experts and 
garden city methods in some of the approximately sixty projects. The 
infant program was quashed by a hostile Congress at the war's end, 
despite objections from planners and housing experts. 30 

In the twenties city planning grew more than in all previous 
decades. State after state passed enabling laws, many based upon 
a model law distributed by Herbert Hoover's Department of Com- 
merce. By 1929 over 650 municipalities had planning commissions. 
Two-thirds of our city population lived under zoning ordinances. 
Planning was being popularized, planning courses were taught in 
many public schools, professional organizations were organized, and 

27 Arthur C. Comey, "Plans for an American Garden Suburb," American City, 
XI (1914), 35-37. 

28 John Nolen, New Towns for Old (Boston, 1927), pp. 50-65. 

29 Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, Hearings on Garden City 
Movement, 64th Cong., 2d Sess., 1917, pp. 2-14, 18, 33. 

30 Curtice N. Hitchock, "The War Housing Program and Its Future," Journal 
of Political Economy, XXVII (1919), 241-277; Sylvester Baxter, "The Future of 
Industrial Housing," Architectural Record, XLV (1919), 567; Adams, "Housing 
and Social Reconstruction," pp. 3435; "The Fate of the War-Housing Projects," 
Housing Problems in America: The Proceedings of the Eighth National Conference 
on Housing (Bridgeport, Conn., 1920), p. 327; U.S. Housing Corporation, Report, 
I (Washington, 1920), 14, and Report, II (Washington, 1919), 23. 

68 Tomorrow a New World 

professional education was provided at Harvard, at Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology, and at other engineering schools. The Ameri- 
can Municipal League and the American Civic Association backed the 
crusade for planning, and at least three journals provided planning 
information to both professional and lay planning boards and com- 
missions. 31 

In 1922 the most ambitious planning effort in the United States 
before the New Deal was initiated in New York City. A giant ad- 
visory regional plan for the whole New York metropolitan area was 
developed by a private planning committee supported by the Russell 
Sage Foundation. Frederic A. Delano was chairman of the com- 
mittee; Thomas Adams, Ebenezer Howard's first secretary in the 
Garden City Association, was general director of plans and surveys. 
Most eminent American planners contributed, and French and Eng- 
lish planners submitted suggestions. The great project culminated 
in the publication of a ten-volume survey and plan, which contained 
literally hundreds of suggestions. Among these was one by Adams 
proposing several garden cities in the New York metropolitan area. 32 
The garden city idea also received new prestige in 1925 when the 
International Federation for Town and Country Planning and Garden 
Cities met in New York with Ebenezer Howard and Sir Raymond 
Unwin in attendance. Howard, who helped organize support for an 
American garden city, was received along with other planners at the 
White House by President Coolidge. 33 

The most significant support in the twenties for American garden 
cities, as well as for planning in a broad regional perspective, came 
from the Regional Planning Association, an informal association of 
talented and influential city planners, economists, social philosophers, 
and conservationists who first began meeting together in 1923. Its 
membership included Lewis Mumford, a social philosopher and 

31 Adams, Outline of Town and City Planning, pp. 247-249; Hubbard and Hub- 
bard, Our Cities Today and Tomorrow, pp. 3, 20, 88-97. 

32 Staff of the Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs, Regional Plan, vol. I 
(New York, 1929), pp. 12-13, 126-127; Thomas Adams, The Buildings of the 
City (New York, 1931; published as vol. II of the Regional Plan of New York), 
pp. 568-571; Thomas Adams, Outline of Town and City Planning, p. 233, and 
"The Planning and Subdivision of Land," pp. 254-256; Thomas Adams, "Plan- 
ning for Civic Betterment in Town and Country," American City, XV (1916), 51. 

33 George B. Ford, "The International City and Regional Planning Conference," 
City Planning, I (1925), 124; "Common Welfare," Survey, LIV (1925), 337-338. 

Bringing Country to Town 69 

planner; Stuart Chase, an economist; Charles H. Whitaker, editor of 
the Journal of the American Institute of Architects; Frederick L. 
Ackerman, a New York architect and city planner; Clarence S. Stein 
and Henry Wright, a successful team of city planners; Benton Mac- 
kaye, a forester, conservationist, and wilderness expert; Robert D. 
Kohn, who had worked with the housing program of the Emergency 
Fleet Corporation and who would later direct the Public Works Ad- 
ministration in the New Deal; and Alexander Bing, later president 
of the City Housing Corporation of New York City. 34 Both Stein 
and Ackerman had visited England and studied the garden cities 
firsthand. Under a New York law secured in 1923 by Governor Alfred 
E. Smith, himself a convinced planner, Stein and Wright completed 
America's first state-wide advisory regional plan. 35 In 1925 the members 
of the association, along with Governor Smith and Charles B. Purdom 
of Letchworth, authored a special regional planning issue of the 
Survey, advocating garden cities and broad regional plans in the 
nature of the later Tennessee Valley Authority. 36 Lewis Mumford 
summarized one aspect of the work of the association as follows: 
"Finally, had it not been for the ideas that the Regional Planning 
Association . . . had put into circulation during the twenties, the 
Greenbelt Towns undertaken by the Re-settlement Administration in 
1935 would have been inconceivable." 37 

In 1924, with the encouragement of the Regional Planning Asso- 
ciation, Bing formed a limited-dividend City Housing Corporation 
for the express purpose of constructing America's first garden city. 
The first project, Sunnyside Gardens in New York City, was only a 

34 Lewis Mumford, "Introduction" to Clarence S. Stein, Toward New Towns for 
America (Liverpool, Eng., 1951), pp. 3-15. 

35 New York Times, April 23, 1925, p. 9. 

30 See the following articles in Survey, vol. LIV (1925): Lewis Mumford, "The 
Fourth Migration," pp. 130-133; Clarence S. Stein, "Dinosaur Cities," pp. 134- 
138; Frederick L. Ackerman, "Our Stake in Congestion," pp. 141-142; Stuart 
Chase, "Coals to New Castle," pp. 143-146; Lewis Mumford, "Regions To Live 
In," pp. 151-152; Benton Mackaye, "The New Exploration," pp. 153-157; Al- 
fred E. Smith, "Seeing a State Whole," p. 158; Henry Wright, "The Road to Good 
Houses," pp. 165-168; Charles B. Purdom, "Garden Cities What They Are and 
How They Work," pp. 169-172; Alexander M. Bing, "Can We Have Garden Cities 
in America?" pp. 172-173. 

37 Lewis Mumford, "Introduction" to Stein, Toward New Towns for America, 
p. 15. 

70 Tomorrow a New World 

trial run, since the city conditions prohibited a garden city. 38 Then, 
in 1927, Bing's corporation purchased 1,350 acres in Bergen County, 
New Jersey, for the future city of Radburn, which was to be the 
closest approximation of an American garden city before the green- 
belt towns of the New Deal. Radburn was planned by Stein and 
Wright in consultation with Unwin, Ackerman, Thomas Adams, and 
other garden city planners. Only partially completed because of the 
depression, which forced Bing's corporation into receivership, Rad- 
burn was designed as a self-contained industrial community pur- 
posefully planned for the automobile age, with pedestrian under- 
passes, huge forty-acre blocks, and internal parks. By the plan, a person 
could walk through most of the town by way of the interior park and 
without crossing a single street. The design was to become world 
famous; but Radburn was only an approach to a complete garden 
city. Because of land cost, Bing did not procure a greenbelt, and, 
in deference to American custom, the lots were sold rather than 
leased. Since Radburn remained uncompleted, industry never came 
and the residents, in un-garden-city-like manner, had to commute 
to work. 39 

The same depression that thwarted the private plans for Radburn 
created a vast new interest in the possibilities of public planning. 
The city planning movement had developed the techniques. Now 
many city planners were prepared to shape the new tomorrow, to 
design the new phoenix which was sure to rise from the ashes of 
the old. In Albany, New York, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt had 
observed the past work of the planners and had found it good. In 
1932 he commented that the work of the Regional Plan Committee 
of New York City had "opened our eyes to new vistas of the future/' 40 
Roosevelt wanted to extend public planning to the country and 
create "wholly new rural communities" with facilities for new indus- 

38 Stein, Toward New Towns for America, pp. 21-32. 

3S Ibid., pp. 21-32, 67; National Resources Committee, Urban Planning and 
Land Policies (Washington, 1939; vol. II of the Supplementary Report of the 
Urbanism Committee to the National Resources Committee), pp. 97-99; Adams, 
Outline of Town and City Planning, diagram opposite p. 232, and "The Planning 
and Subdivision of Land," pp. 265-266; Dahir, Communities for Better Living, 
pp. 189-190. 

40 Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Growing Up by Plan," Survey, LXVII (1932), 507. 

Bringing Country to Town 71 

tries. 41 With a rural rather than an urban emphasis, Franklin D. 
Roosevelt, even as Ebenezer Howard, wanted to marry the city to 
the country. He wondered "if out of this regional planning we are 
not going to be in a position to take the bull by the horns in the im- 
mediate future and adopt some kind of experimental work based on 
distribution of population." 42 According to Roosevelt, "we have 
'growed like Topsy,' we must grow up by planning." 43 The publica- 
tion of the Regional Plan of New York led Roosevelt to do some 
characteristic reminiscing in which he traced his thoughts on planning 
back to the Chicago plan of 1909, when Charles D. Norton and his 
uncle, Frederic A. Delano, had first talked to him about city planning: 
"I think from that very moment I have been interested in not the 
mere planning of a single city but in the larger aspects of planning. 
It is the way of the future." 44 Roosevelt gave the following evalua- 
tion of the planning movement which developed after 1909: "Out of 
this survey initiated by Mr. Norton in Chicago has developed some- 
thing new; not a science, but a new understanding of problems that 
affect not merely bricks and mortar, subways and streets; planning 
that affects also the economic and social life of a community, then 
of a county, then of a state; perhaps the day is not far distant when 
planning will become a part of the national policy of this country." 45 
Like the accomplishments of El wood Mead and others in rural 
planning, the work of the city planners, and particularly those inter- 
ested in garden cities, provided a pattern for many of the New Deal 
communities. Radburn, New Jersey, was a prototype of the greenbelt 
cities and other suburban communities of the New Deal. Many other 
of the New Deal communities, and particularly the subsistence home- 
steads, combined ideas from both the rural and urban planners. Many 
of the individuals most closely connected with the garden city move- 
ment, such as Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, were to play an 
active role in the development of the greenbelt cities. In a larger 
sense, the concept of planning, as developed in the limited area of 
a city, necessarily had to be extended to include larger and larger 

41 Franklin D. Roosevelt, "A New Rural Planning," Rural Government: The 
Proceedings of the Fourteenth American Country Life Conference (Chicago, 
1932), pp. 15-16. 

42 Roosevelt, "Growing Up by Plan," p. 506. 43 Ibid., p. 507. 
44 Ibid., p. 483. "Ibid. 

72 Tomorrow a New World 

areas. Thus many city planners became, in the New Deal, the direc- 
tors of national planning agencies, Frederic A. Delano being a 
good example with his work in the National Resources Committee. 
The technically qualified city planners, despite or because of their 
idealism, were concerned with isolated areas or single aspects of the 
whole economy. They had the needed skills for their respective tasks 
and frequently combined with their technical skill a wide grasp of 
economic and social problems; yet they were often isolated from the 
making of truly national policies or from the understanding of national 
problems. Exceptions to this were many of the members of the Re- 
gional Planning Association, who were not strictly city planners but 
economists, social philosophers, or reformers. As a whole, however, 
the complete background of the New Deal communities, which were 
a part of larger planning programs, cannot be discovered in its en- 
tirety in the movements either for planned land settlement or for 
garden cities, although much of the impetus for, and many of the 
policies that went into, the communities can be discovered here. The 
final and perhaps most important source of the New Deal communi- 
ties can be discovered only in aspects of the long struggle by econo- 
mists and others to get the federal government to assume a more 
direct responsibility for the total economy of the nation, or, in other 
words, in the attempts to achieve some degree of national economic 

& IV 

From Acorn to Oak 

IN September, 1877, Richard T. Ely, a recent graduate of Columbia 
University, was greeted in Halle, Germany, the gateway to a then 
typical educational pilgrimage, by an awkward, rural-mannered Il- 
linois scholar named Simon N. Patten. Both young men were in Ger- 
many to study in the famous universities. Because of the inspiration 
they received from the German historical school of economists, both 
returned to America with a thoroughgoing distaste for conventional 
American politics and religion, as well as for the archenemy, English 
classical economics. 1 In the summer of 1932 Rexford G. Tugwell, a 
former student of Patten and a member of the "brain trust" of Frank- 
lin D. Roosevelt, met with Milburn L. Wilson, a former student of 
Ely and a farm economist from Montana, to begin mapping a pos- 
sible program of national agricultural planning. Tugwell was already 
trying to steer Roosevelt ever closer to full commitment on national 
economic planning. The advocacy of major planning policies by 
Wilson and Tugwell represented the fruition of ideas and policies 
advocated soon after 1877 by Ely, Patten, and a few other economic 
rebels. An acorn in 1877 was about to become a full-grown oak. 
When this occurred in the New Deal, Tugwell and Wilson, in addition 
to their policy-making influence in the broad fields of agricultural 
planning, were destined to shape and direct the community program 
in its most formative years. 

"Richard T. Ely, Ground under Our Feet (New York, 1938), pp. 38-40, 121. 


74 Tomorrow a New World 

In 1885 Patten, Ely, John Bates Clark, Edmund J. James, Henry 

C. Adams, and other economists who were in revolt against classical 
economic theories joined to form the American Economic Association 
and to ask for a positive economic role for the state. 2 Uniting ethical 
zeal with what was then considered economic radicalism, they in- 
fluenced the rising social gospel movement, the movement for con- 
servation and scientific forestry, and the multiple reforms of the pro- 
gressive era. They were influenced by the growth of the American 
philosophy of pragmatism. They became the academic fathers of 
such later economists as Thorstein Veblen, John R. Commons, and 
Tugwell. Although much of the economic philosophy of these men 
was reflected in various New Deal programs, it was their influence 
on agricultural policy that most clearly affected the New Deal com- 

As a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin, Richard 
T. Ely became interested in the broad problems of land use. Through 
his influence Henry C. Taylor, one of his students, went to Europe 
to study land economics. A few years after Taylor's return, he estab- 
lished a Department of Agricultural Economics in the University of 
Wisconsin College of Agriculture in 1909. 3 Soon the students of Ely 
and Taylor were acknowledged experts in several fields of agricul- 
tural economics: Benjamin H. Hibbard as a student of farm tenancy 
and public land policies, Oliver E. Baker in land classification and 
population statistics, Lewis C. Gray in land-use planning, and John 

D. Black in the whole field of agricultural policy. In 1919 a growing 
number of farm economists from Wisconsin and other universities 
united to form the American Farm Economic Association. Springing 
in part from the interest created by Theodore Roosevelt's Country 
Life Commission, rural sociology became a recognized specialty at 
Wisconsin in 1911 when Taylor asked a rural minister, Charles J. 
Galpin, to become the first teacher in the new field. The rural so- 
ciologists founded the American Country Life Association in 1917. 4 

2 Richard T. Ely, "Report of the Organization of the American Economic As- 
sociation," Publications of the American Economic Association, I (March, 1886), 

3 Leonard A. Salter, Jr., A Critical Review of Research in Land Economics 
(Minneapolis, 1948), pp. 7-11. 

4 Liberty Hyde Bailey, The Country-Life Movement in the United States ( New 
York, 1913), pp. 7-10; Charles J. Galpin, My Drift into Rural Sociology (Baton 

From Acorn to Oak 75 

By that date the work begun by Ely and Taylor was beginning to 
affect national agricultural policies. 

Even before 1917 William J. Spillman, head of the Office of Farm 
Management in the Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department 
of Agriculture, had studied such economic problems as land tenure, 
cost accounting, and farm records. In 1918 he asked Henry C. Taylor 
to come to Washington and help reorganize the Office of Farm 
Management. In 1919 Taylor, Ely, Oliver E. Baker, and Lewis C. 
Gray all worked on a committee which led to the creation of the 
Division of Land Economics in the Department of Agriculture. Under 
the direction of Gray, this division conducted research on land 
utilization and classification, on tenure problems, and on problems 
in land settlement and colonization. 5 In 1921 Henry C. Wallace, Secre- 
tary of Agriculture under Warren G. Harding, appointed Taylor as 
the head of a newly organized Bureau of Agricultural Economics. 
This new bureau absorbed the Division of Land Economics and in- 
cluded other divisions on farm management, rural sociology, market- 
ing, and statistics. In addition to Spillman and the economists from 
Wisconsin, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics included on its 
staff at one time or another such important agricultural figures as 
Charles J. Brand, Howard Tolley, and Mordecai Ezekiel. In the 
twenties these farm economists carried out extensive research projects 
in land economics and formulated numerous proposals for farm relief. 
From their research and discussions came the domestic allotment 
system and the subsistence homesteads program of the New Deal. 

Even as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics was being estab- 
lished at Washington, Richard T. Ely was motivating several private 
research projects in land economics. In connection with the interest 
in soldier settlement after World War I, two of Ely's students, Lewis 
C. Gray and John D. Black, completed a study on land colonization 
in the Lake States. 6 In 1920 Ely established at Wisconsin the In- 
stitute of Land and Public Utility Economics to co-ordinate research 

Rouge, 1938), pp. 1&-19; Proceedings of the First National Country Life Con- 
ference (Baltimore, 1919), pp. 1-5. 

5 Salter, A Critical Review, pp. 13-17. 

6 John D. Black and Lewis C. Gray, Land Settlement and Colonization in the 
Great Lakes States (U.S. Department of Agriculture Bulletin no. 1295; Washing- 
ton, 1925). 

76 Tomorrow a New World 

in the broader fields of land economics and public utilities. Ely be- 
lieved that urban and rural problems were closely related and in his 
institute tried to bring the land economists and city planners into a 
closer relationship. The institute sponsored a few major research proj- 
ects, financed books, and published a journal. Ely himself became a 
member of the Board of Directors of the City Housing Corporation, 
which constructed the garden city at Radburn, New Jersey. 7 In rural 
planning, Ely and the institute backed the Fairway Farms experi- 
ment in Montana, which, even as Radburn, bore a close relationship 
to the New Deal communities. 

From experience on his own farm, Henry C. Taylor conceived the 
idea of a company to rejuvenate farms and to help tenants become 
owners. By 1923 he had interested Ely and the institute, as well as 
the trustees of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation. While 
in Montana in 1923, Taylor broached the idea to Milburn L. Wilson, 
an old friend and former student who was then head of the Rural 
Economics Division of the Montana State Agricultural College. They 
jointly decided to make the experiment in Montana and, with the 
approval of the foundation and the receipt of a $100,000 loan from 
John D. Rockefeller at 5 per cent interest (but with no required 
repayment), incorporated Fairway Farms in 1924 to administer the 
funds. Among the nine directors of the corporation were Ely, Taylor, 
Wilson, Leon C. Marshall, head of the Department of Political Econ- 
omy at the University of Chicago, and Chester C. Davis, then com- 
missioner of agriculture and labor in Montana. Being on the scene, 
Wilson became secretary and managing director of the experiment. 8 

Wilson was a farm boy from Iowa who had taken a Bachelor 
of Science degree in agriculture in 1907 at Iowa State, where he 
met young Henry A. Wallace. After tenant farming in Nebraska, 
Wilson homesteaded in Montana in 1909. His farming experience 
in drought-stricken Montana led to his work with the agricultural 
college at Bozeman. Wilson became Montana's first county agricultural 
agent and first state director of extension work. In 1920 he came to 
the University of Wisconsin and took a Master of Arts degree, study- 

7 Richard T. Ely, "The City Housing Corporation and 'Sunnyside,' " Journal 
of Land and Public Utility Economics, II (1926), 174. 

8 M. L. Wilson, "The Fairway Farms Project," Journal of Land and Public 
Utility Economics, II (1926), 156-159. 

From Acorn to Oak 77 

ing land economics under Taylor and Ely and economics under 
John R. Commons. During the twenties he spent three summers 
studying philosophy at the University of Chicago under James H. 
Tufts and Eustace Hayden and one summer at Cornell, where he 
studied farm management under George F. Warren. He had both 
the academic background and the farming experience needed to 
direct Fairway Farms. 

Wilson used the funds of Fairway Farms, Incorporated, to make 
experiments on the proper size of farms, the methods of selecting 
tenants and prospective owners, the most efficient equipping of 
farms, and the type of farming suited to a particular region. 9 By 1926 
he had purchased eight farm units of sizes varying up to 2,500 acres. 
Prospective purchasers were given tenant-purchase contracts. After 
payment of all necessary expenses, such as taxes, insurance, and 
family living expenses, the tenant turned the remaining net income 
over to a trust fund. When the trust fund amounted to 25 per cent 
of the purchase price, a sales contract was to be executed. The 
carefully selected tenant was permitted five years to accumulate the 
25 per cent. If he failed, his contract was to be canceled. The tenant 
was given supervision and financial help in bad years. Everything 
was planned to help the tenant farmer re-enter the national struc- 
ture of freehold, one-family farms. These farms were the first ex- 
periments in regional land use and were early precedents for the 
tenant-rehabilitation and purchase programs of the New Deal. The 
experimentation indicated many of the policies that Wilson would 
adapt to his subsistence homesteads. Yet, despite complete mechani- 
zation on some units and an amazing degree of efficiency in produc- 
tion, the drought and depression combined to make the Fairway 
Farms a financial failure. The project was discontinued and, much 
later, the land was sold. 

During the twenties the land economists and sociologists accepted 
as their province of study all the problems of land settlement, rural 
social advancement, land tenure, and rural planning that Elwood 
Mead was trying to solve with his rural colonies. But the approach 
of the economists was entirely different. They were more cognizant 
of the total economic situation, more dependent on research, and 
more cautious in making suggestions for action. After the agricultural 

8 Ibid., p. 156. 

78 Tomorrow a New World 

depression began in 1921 and 1922, the Bureau of Agricultural Eco- 
nomics published a report on land utilization that seemed to chal- 
lenge the ideas underlying Mead's program of development and 
colonization. In this report the economists declared that the age of 
an expanding agricultural plant should be in the past. In a period 
of agricultural surpluses, any further development of farm land (such 
as irrigation projects) should be slow and cautious. On the positive 
side they advocated the reforestation of lands unsuited to agriculture 
and in so doing raised the problem of resettlement for displaced 
farmers. 10 

In the twenties the Bureau of Agricultural Economics was drawn 
into the heated debates over farm relief proposals and, after the death 
of Henry C. Wallace in 1924, lost most of its policy-making influence. 
With some reluctance the farm economists and Wallace had sup- 
ported a form of price fixing for agriculture, which was being de- 
fended by two private farm machinery dealers, George N. Peek and 
Hugh Johnson, and which was given legislative expression in the 
McNary-Haugen bills. The McNary-Haugen idea involved a con- 
trolled domestic market for agricultural products through a govern- 
ment-directed program of foreign dumping for all surplus goods. 
Herbert Hoover, as Secretary of Commerce under Harding and 
Coolidge and later as President, was opposed to any type of price 
supports and distrusted the farm economists, who, he believed, had 
too many socialistic ideas. Hoover proposed government aid to co- 
operative marketing associations as the best solution for the farm 
problem, an idea that was incorporated into his Farm Board, which 
was established in 1929. 11 

The farm economists continued to talk about other relief proposals, 
including submarginal land retirement and, after 1926, a domestic 
allotment system. The latter proposal was first broached by William 
J. Stillman, but was quickly modified and defended by John D. 

10 Salter, A Critical Review, pp. 18-20. 

"Chester C. Davis, "The Development of Agricultural Policy since the End 
of the World War," in Farmers in a Changing World: The Yearbook of Agricul- 
ture for 1940 (Washington, 1940), pp. 302-306; James H. Shideler, "Herbert 
Hoover and the Federal Farm Board Project, 1921-1925," Mississippi Valley 
Historical Review, XLII (1955-1956), 721; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age 
of Roosevelt, vol. I: The Crisis of the Old Order (Boston, 1957), pp. 105-110, 

From Acorn to Oak 79 

Black and Milburn L. Wilson, who was dividing his time between 
Montana and the Department of Agriculture. Stillman's plan called 
for the issuance of allotment certificates covering the portion of a crop 
allocated for domestic use. These certificates were to be redeemable 
in an amount equal to the tariff rate on the product, increasing the 
farmers' income that much above the world price. Since all crops 
not covered by allotment certificates would sell at the lower com- 
petitive prices, it was hoped that farmers would not grow crops in 
excess of the allotments. Black modified the plan to make the allot- 
ment certificates transferable, while M. L. Wilson worked out an 
adaptation that included a processing tax to pay for the scheme and 
a plan for voluntary crop reductions by farmers. 12 

With the general depression beginning in the fall of 1929 and with 
the subsequent failure of the Farm Board to alleviate the plight of 
farmers, the Hoover administration was ready to try one of the pro- 
posals of the farm economists land retirement. Secretary of Agricul- 
ture Arthur M. Hyde and the land-grant colleges sponsored a Land 
Utilization Conference which met in Chicago in 1931. Since Hoover 
would not even consider governmental controls over the amount 
produced by individual farmers, the conference may have represented 
an attempt to forestall moves toward the more radical domestic 
allotment system. The Land Utilization Conference met to consider 
the possibilities of reducing surpluses by retiring from productive 
use the many submarginal lands throughout the country. The idea 
had been broached by Ely much before the twenties, had been end- 
lessly discussed by the farm economists throughout the twenties, 
and had been advocated by a Committee on the Bases of a Sound 
Land Policy, which included experts from engineering, city plan- 
ning, land economics, and conservation, all of whom had been brought 
together in 1927 by Frederic A. Delano. 13 

The Land Utilization Conference represented the first great fruition 
of Ely's work in land economics. As an old man surrounded by his 
many former students, Ely said: "Now as I look at this program . . . 

"John D. Black, Agricultural Reform in the United States (New York, 1929), 
p. 271; Daniel Roland Fusfeld, The Economic Thought of FDR and the Origin 
of the New Deal (New York, 1956), p. 196. 

"Edward C. Banfield and Rexford G. Tugwell, "Governmental Planning at 
Mid-Century," Journal of Politics, XIII (1951), 143. 

80 Tomorrow a New World 

I feel that I am in the promised land/' 14 Practically every facet of 
land planning was presented in papers by such men as Ely, Lewis C. 
Gray, John D. Black, M. L. Wilson, and Elwood Mead. The con- 
ference recommended a national inventory and classification of land, 
the licensing and regulation of land development, the curtailment of 
reclamation, public acquisition and retirement of submarginal lands, 
and a study of industrial decentralization. It resulted in the creation 
of the National Land Use Planning Committee, made up of agri- 
cultural leaders from the Department of Agriculture, the Federal 
Farm Board, the Federal Farmers Loan Board, the land-grant col- 
leges, and the Department of the Interior. It also appointed a Na- 
tional Advisory and Legislative Committee on Land Use, made up 
of representatives of the farm organizations. 

The National Land Use Planning Committee studied land uses 
in the Tennessee Valley, investigated the possibilities of industrial 
decentralization, and offered some guidance to the back-to-trie-land 
movement of the depression. In the New Deal it was merged, along 
with Ickes' National Planning Board in the Public Works Administra- 
tion, into the National Resources Committee, which was the first truly 
national planning agency. 15 Others of Ely's dreams were soon to be 
realized, many under the direction of his students. M. L. Wilson was 
to become Director of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, the 
first land-use program. He borrowed most of his early staff members 
from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and secured one of the 
country's leading rural sociologists as his assistant. Through the Civil 
Works Administration the Division of Subsistence Homesteads 
launched research projects on part-time farming in thirty-three states, 
marking one of the most extensive research programs in the land 
use ever projected. A large program of land retirement was set up 
under L. C. Gray in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, but 
with funds from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. These 
programs were moved to the Resettlement Administration in 1935, 
where the land planners not only purchased submarginal land but 
provided a planning staff for the location of resettlement communities. 
In the Resettlement Administration another of Ely's wishes was 
realized; here, city planners joined the land planners. 

u Proceedings, National Conference on Land Utilization, Chicago, November 
19-21, 1931 (Washington, 1932), p. 126. 

15 Banfield and Tugwell, "Governmental Planning," p. 143. 

From Acorn to Oak 81 

Although M. L. Wilson welcomed the idea of land retirement, he 
believed that this would only begin to solve the farm problem. Thus, 
in the depression, he led the crusade for a domestic allotment system 
as a necessary part of a much broader, longer-range program of land- 
use planning. He always connected with the domestic allotment 
system and land retirement a program for subsistence homesteads. 
Wilson faced up to a problem that had been inherent, if seldom 
discussed, in almost all the land-utilization discussions since 1920. 
It was a dark ogre in back of any relief plan that involved a reduc- 
tion in farm production. Land-use planning, it appeared certain, was 
going to displace many farm families (Wilson believed 2,000,000 
people). What were they to do? With mass unemployment in the 
cities, industry offered no refuge. In fact, it added to the problem, as 
witness the back-to-the-land movement. Wilson believed that the 
only possible answer was industrial decentralization and small sub- 
sistence homesteads of a few acres. On this small acreage a family 
could grow all its food and thus be able to accept shorter hours in 
industry. Situated between commercial agriculture and full-time 
industrial employment, subsistence homesteads communities would 
bring about a new balance between agriculture and industry, ab- 
sorbing both the industrially unemployed and the displaced farmers. 
There would be no limit to the absorption, for ever-shorter hours 
would enable more people to share in the industrial wage, while the 
workers' wages could be supplemented by home food production. 
Wilson's ideas on subsistence homesteads were adopted from his 
studies of existing prototypes. He was impressed particularly by the 
Mormon villages in Utah, with their subsistence homesteads and 
village industries. In addition, he was influenced by his belief that 
certain definite "moral and spiritual values" come from contact with 
the soil and with growing things and by a counterbelief that congested 
cities were not the best places to live. 16 Wilson himself attributes his 
earliest ideas on subsistence homesteads to Elwood Mead and to the 
Irish agrarian poet and philosopher, George Russell or "A. E." 1T 

Wilson began a propaganda campaign for production controls and 
subsistence homesteads in 1931. He had many allies. In the East 

18 Milburn L. Wilson, Farm Relief and Allotment Plan ( Day and Hour Series 
no. 2, University of Minnesota; Minneapolis, 1933), pp. 48-52. 
"Author's conversation with M. L. Wilson on June 27, 1956. 

82 Tomorrow a New World 

were John D. Black and Henry I. Harriman, president of the U.S. 
Chamber of Commerce, who had met Wilson while visiting Montana. 
On a committee which Wilson set up in the West was Henry A. 
Wallace, son of Henry C. Wallace and publisher of a farm magazine 
in Iowa. 18 In a radio address in April, 1932, Wilson summarized his 
views, asking for a new economic philosophy for both agriculture and 
industry, including a system of planned land use. He asked for a 
termination of the homestead law, for land classification by the states, 
for the retirement of poor land, for lowered land taxes, for a consolida- 
tion of inefficient rural governmental units, for a domestic allotment 
system, and for part-time farming and industrial decentralization. 19 
By letters and speeches Wilson continued his campaign, talking to 
"economists, writers, politicians, industrialists, farm leaders, bankers, 
and insurance executives." 20 Always, he began with his ideas on 
crop allotments and ended with subsistence homesteads. 

When Wilson learned that Franklin D. Roosevelt had long been 
advocating industrial decentralization and rural-urban communities, 
Wilson reputedly said: "That's my man for President/' 21 In any case, 
Wilson came to regard Roosevelt's efforts toward land-use planning 
in New York State as milestones toward a better agricultural pro- 
gram. 22 Governor Roosevelt, working closely with George F. Warren 
and the Cornell College of Agriculture, had secured a $20,000 ap- 
propriation for the beginning of a complete survey and classification 
of all New York's agricultural resources. Cornell agricultural economists 
used it to survey Tompkins County, showing the need for retiring from 
agriculture a large percentage of the farm land. On the basis of 
this survey, which was to be expanded to the whole state over a period 
of ten years, Roosevelt and his Agricultural Advisory Commission, 
which included Warren and Henry Morgenthau, Jr., formulated 
plans for the retirement and, in most cases, for the reforestation of 

18 Unpublished first draft of Russell Lord and Paul H. Johnstone, eds., A Place 
on Earth: A Critical Appraisal of Subsistence Homesteads (published in Wash- 
ington, 1942), in Record Group 83, Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Eco- 
nomics, National Archives (to be cited hereafter as R.G. 83, National Archives). 

19 M. L. Wilson, "Land Utilization," Lecture no. 25 in the Economics Series of 
the National Advisory Council on Radio in Education (Chicago, 1932), pp. 1-8. 

^Russell Lord, The Wallaces of Iowa (Boston, 1947), p. 311. 

21 Ibid. 

22 M. L. Wilson, "A Land-Use Program for the Federal Government," Journal 
of Farm Economics, XV (1933), 219. 

From Acorn to Oak 83 

all submarginal land. For the marginal farmer Roosevelt began a 
relief program that included tax adjustments, state aid for schools and 
roads, and rural electrification. 23 For the submarginal farmer who 
would have to be resettled, Roosevelt, as in his reaction to both the 
city planning and back-to-the-land movements, relied primarily on 
his cherished plan for a marriage of agriculture and industry as 
part of a broad program of regional planning. He described a new, 
third type of American life, which he called the "rural industrial 
group." This involved industrial decentralization and a new balance 
between town and country. With new transportation and communica- 
tion facilities, Roosevelt believed that the country had advantages 
which could not be duplicated in the city and that industry was going 
to decentralize voluntarily. 24 

Roosevelt's land-use program represented a full-sized regional plan 
for New York State. It comprehended his interest in bettering rural 
life, his advocacy of public power developments, his sympathy for the 
work of city planners, his passionate interest in conservation and 
forestry, and his absorbing desire to unite city and country. It repre- 
sented the most notable, concrete program reflecting Roosevelt's 
enthusiastic acceptance of the principle of planning and of a more 
positive role for the state. His willingness to accept the idea of govern- 
mental planning in the field of natural resources and public utilities 
paved the way for his acceptance of such other planning programs 
as were reflected in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and 
the National Recovery Administration. Through Roosevelt, many of 
the ideas of the German-trained economists who founded the Amer- 
ican Economic Association were to find expression in the national 
government, although Roosevelt never desired a basic change in 
American economic institutions. But he did believe that the govern- 
ment could and should control and regulate economic endeavor in 
such a way as to insure the general welfare. 25 

On a board sponsoring one of M. L. Wilson's radio addresses on 
land utilization in the spring of 1932 was Rexford G. Tugwell, then 
professor of economics at Columbia University. On reading the ad- 

23 Fusfeld, The Economic Thought of FDR, pp. 125-136. 

24 Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Actualities of Agricultural Planning," in Charles A. 
Beard, ed., America Faces the Future (Cambridge, Mass., 1932), pp. 326-347. 

25 Fusfeld, The Economic Thought of FDR, p. 251. 

84 Tomorrow a New World 

dress, Tugwell wrote Wilson that he admired his ideas. Shortly after- 
ward, they met in Washington and liked each other, although on 
many things their ideas were not similar. Tugwell, as a member of 
Roosevelt's developing "brain trust," carried Wilson's ideas to him. 
Just a week before the Democratic Convention in the summer of 
1932, Tugwell attended a meeting on agricultural problems at the 
University of Chicago. Here, he pressed both Wilson and Henry A. 
Wallace for details on the domestic allotment plan. These ideas 
were telephoned to Hyde Park and, in general terms, incorporated 
into Roosevelt's acceptance speech at Chicago. After further guidance 
from Wallace and Wilson, the ideas were expanded by Roosevelt in 
his September speech at Topeka. 26 In August, 1932, in Albany, both 
Wallace and Wilson met Roosevelt for the first time. Roosevelt and 
Wilson found themselves in a complete and satisfying agreement on 
subsistence homesteads, which were, to both men, the dearest part 
of a developing agricultural and relief program. In January, 1933, 
Roosevelt asked Wallace, Tugwell, and Wilson to draw plans for 
the reorganization of the Department of Agriculture into an instru- 
ment of national planning. 27 In his cheerfully confident inauguration 
speech on a gloomy March 4, 1933, Roosevelt asked that America 
"recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, 
by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to pro- 
vide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land." 28 

Rexford Guy Tugwell was a surprising addition to the group 
working for agricultural reform. In spite of his small-town background, 
he was primarily a representative of urban liberalism. Although 
keenly interested in agricultural problems, his approach to them was 
always different from, and less conservative than, that of the men with 
a farm and agricultural college background. Through Simon Patten, 
Tugwell had been exposed to, and inspired by, economic theories not 
dissimilar to those taught by Ely at Wisconsin, but without the 
special emphasis on land problems. 

26 Lord, Wallaces of Iowa, p. 322; Gertrude Almy Slichter, "Franklin D. Roose- 
velt and the Farm Problem, 1929-1932," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 
XLIII (1956-1957), 247-250; Rexford G. Tugwell, The Democratic Roosevelt 
(Garden City, N.Y., 1957), pp. 232-233. 

27 Lord, Wallaces of Iowa, p. 323; Slichter, "Franklin D. Roosevelt and the 
Farm Problem, 1929-1932," p. 252 fn. 

28 Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nothing to Fear: The Selected Addresses of Franklin D. 
Roosevelt, 1932-1945, ed. by B. D. Zevin (Cambridge, Mass., 1946), p. 15. 

From Acorn to Oak 85 

Patten was probably the most brilliant of all the German-trained 
economists. After an interval of temporary blindness, he had gone to 
the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of 
Pennsylvania. Here he lived a frugal, abstemious life of thought and 
teaching. His fertile mind ranged over wide fields of sociology, ethics, 
and philosophy, but always came back to economics. More deduc- 
tive in method than many of his coUeagues, Patten was less involved 
with practical reforms than men like Ely, but made greater contribu- 
tions to economic theory. 29 Convinced that English natural-law eco- 
nomic theories were antiquated in an age of plenty rather than 
scarcity, Patten urged a recognition of the implications of the new 
environment, an environment that contained not only a better tech- 
nology but better men, or men with added skills. Economic strife was 
as antiquated as toil and struggle to wring sustenance from the 
earth. In the new environment a pleasure economy was available 
to all. Each man could be a working capitalist, whether his capital be 
money or skill. Competition was a carry-over from a pain economy, 
an age of scarcity. A new era of co-operation and voluntary socializa- 
tion was possible, if only individuals would replace dogmatism with 
pragmatic judgments, or the 'long view." Not state socialism, with its 
coercion, but the voluntary co-operation and mutual tolerance be- 
tween organized groups was Patten's optimistic view of the future's 
possibilities. Unless dogmatism forced state action, the state would 
only have to register the mutual assent obtained by compromise be- 
tween organized groups. 30 

Tugwell, who became "immersed" in Patten's teachings, wanted 
the same socialization, or collectivism, desired by Patten, but he did 
not share Patten's optimism about its achievement through voluntary 
co-operation. He clearly visualized the difficulty of change or adjust- 
ment and predicted that any planning by the state would necessitate 
involuntary regimentation and class conflict. 31 As an economist he be- 
came interested in the plight of agriculture even before 1929. In 1928 
he advocated production controls, enforced by the federal government, 
as a necessary short-time relief measure, but only as a temporary 

29 Rexford G. Tugwell, "Notes on the Life and Work of Simon Nelson Patten," 
Journal of Political Economy, XXXI (1923), 173-177. 

30 Simon N. Patten, "The Reconstruction of Economic Theory," in his Essays in 
Economic Theory, ed. by R. G. Tugwell ( New York, 1924 ) , pp. 273-340. 

31 Rexford G. Tugwell, "The Preparation of a President," Western Political 
Quarterly, I (1948), 142. 

86 Tomorrow a New World 

measure. 32 As a long-time solution he desired thorough economic 
planning for agriculture, with extensive social control over the in- 
dividual and his use of the land. He deplored the fact that a dedicated, 
but what he believed to be antiquated, doctrine of individualism 
had prevented the expert supervision of farmers by those who knew 
how to improve a backward agriculture. 

As a beginning in reform, Tugwell desired the reforestation of 
millions of acres of submarginal land, with the planned resettlement 
of the displaced families. He recognized that an ambitious program 
of governmental planning and the resultant controls would meet its 
most determined opposition in the farmers themselves, with their 
individualism, their ideas on freedom, and their vested property 
rights. They would probably continue to feel that they had a right 
to grow what they pleased or, if they so desired, to plow a furrow 
straight down the hillside. But since the farmers were always knock- 
ing at the door of Congress for assistance, they might be persuaded 
to "give the expert his chance" and do "what the expert says" in ex- 
change for aid. 33 If so, and this idea permeated Tugwell's thoughts 
on the whole economy, the depression might serve a useful function. 
Unlike the agriculturalists, Tugwell was just as interested in other 
aspect of a planned economy, welcoming a system of regulation and 
control over business. In connection with community planning, Tug- 
well desired the resettlement of displaced farmers in agricultural 
villages. He also desired garden cities for industrial workers, but he 
was never enthusiastic about Roosevelt and Wilson's ideas on com- 
munities of part-time farming and industry. Tugwell, much later, 
described Roosevelt's strong support of subsistence homesteads as a 
bit of impractical agrarian sentimentality, a "Utopian notion out of 
the past the idea that men are better off close to nature and working 
with their hands on their own acres." 34 

With strong administrative backing, subsistence homesteads legisla- 
tion was almost a certainty in the hurried, rubber-stamp first session 
of the Seventy-third Congress. The strong influence of M. L. Wilson 
and the many people he had converted to his views, all of whom saw 

32 Rexford G. Tugwell, "Reflections on Farm Relief," Political Science Quarterly, 
XLIII (1928), 490-491. 

33 Rexford G. Tugwell, "Farm Relief and a Permanent Agriculture," Annals of 
the American Academy, CXLII (1929), 271-282. 

34 Tugwell, Democratic Roosevelt, p. 158. 

From Acorn to Oak 87 

subsistence homesteads as only a part of a larger land-use planning 
program, was merged with that of the more doctrinaire agrarians, 
the rural planners of the El wood Mead variety, and the more urban- 
ized garden city advocates. Bernarr Macfadden, who had influenced 
the introduction of subsistence homesteads legislation in the Seventy- 
second Congress in 1932, continued as a powerful propagandist and 
lobbyist for subsistence homesteads. Mrs. Edith Lumsden, his pro- 
fessional lobbyist, consulted with John D. Black, M. L. Wilson, and 
Elwood Mead, helping to unite various threads of interest. She 
also saw Senator John H. Bankhead of Alabama who, along with his 
brother, Representative William B. Bankhead, had been an advocate 
of the Mead-sponsored rural colonization scheme for the South. Both 
Bankheads, as well as Representative James G. Scrugham of Nevada, 
introduced subsistence homesteads bills into the first session of the 
first New Deal Congress, only to see them ignored by harried and 
rushed congressmen. 35 Senator Bankhead, the most powerful congres- 
sional advocate of the bills, was a Southern agrarian. He saw the 
back-to-the-land movement as an effective relief measure and, even 
more, as a means to "the restoration of that small yeoman class which 
has been the backbone of every great civilization." He also saw in 
it the hope of a new era not marred by sectionalism or by a spirit of 
disunity and suspicion. 36 

Senator Bankhead's first bill, which was introduced on the first day 
of the session, called for a loan of up to $1,000 a person to aid in the 
purchase of "subsistence farms." The beneficiaries of a $400,000,000 
grant from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation were to be the 
unemployed city workers with an agricultural background or those 
who had moved back to the country since January 1, 1931. Local 
committees or any other agencies selected by the Secretary of the 
Interior were to locate suitable land, secure title to it, and then super- 
vise the construction of dwellings and the purchase of livestock and 
equipment by the settler. After full compliance with a purchase con- 
tract, the land title was to be conferred upon the settler, who was to 
repay his loan over a twenty-year period at not over 4 per cent in- 

35 Russell Lord and Paul H. Johnstone, eds., A Place on Earth: A Critical Ap- 
raisal of Subsistence Homesteads (Washington, 1942), p. 24. 
30 John H. Bankhead, "The One Way to Permanent National Recovery," Liberty, 
X (July 22, 1933), 18. 

88 Tomorrow a New World 

terest. Only land already in cultivation could be purchased for sub- 
sistence homesteads, thus preventing an increased agricultural sur- 
plus. 37 Senator Bankhead's other bill, introduced on April 17, 1933, 
stipulated "subsistence homesteads" instead of "subsistence farms," 
permitted $1,500 loans, provided for competent and experienced 
supervisors for the settlers, gave recognition to the community or 
colony type of settlement, and provided for a Reconstruction Finance 
Corporation grant of $25,000,000. 38 The two measures in the House 
were very similar to Senator Bankhead's first bill. Representative 
Scrugham's bill permitted loans of up to $2,000 and provided for 
repayment over a period of forty years. 39 All four bills placed the 
administration of the program in the Department of the Interior, 
which, first with the Homestead Act of 1862 and then with Elwood 
Mead's work in the Bureau of Reclamation, had had the most ex- 
perience with land settlement. 

Since neither of the subsistence homesteads bills was acted upon 
by Congress, Senator Bankhead, with White House backing, was able 
to add an abbreviated form of his subsistence homesteads proposals 
to the National Industrial Recovery Act, which was enacted in May, 
1933. Almost hidden as Section 208 of Title II of this tremendously 
significant act, the subsistence homesteads section received no dis- 
cussion in the hearings or in the floor debates. As finally approved, 
Section 208 read: 

To provide for aiding in the redistribution of the overbalance of popula- 
tion in industrial centers $25,000,000 is hereby made available to the 
President, to be used by him through such agencies as he may establish 
and under such regulations as he may make, for making loans for and 
otherwise aiding in the purchase of subsistence homesteads. The moneys 
collected as repayment of said loans shall constitute a revolving fund to be 
administered as directed by the President for the purposes of this section. 40 

This small, generalized section of a larger act included few of the 
more detailed ideas of its supporters or of those reflected in former 

37 U.S. Senate, 73d Cong., 1st Sess., Senate bill S. 69, introduced March 10, 
1933, published as an unpaged leaflet. 

38 U.S. Senate, 73d Cong., 1st Sess., Senate bill S. 1503, introduced April 17, 
1933, published as an unpaged leaflet. 

39 U.S. House, 73d Cong., 1st Sess., House bill H.R. 4004, introduced March 21, 
1933, published as an unpaged leaflet. 

40 United States, Statutes at Large, XLVII, pt. i, 205-206. 

From Acorn to Oak 89 

legislative proposals or those exemplified in actual colonization 
projects. It did not necessarily provide for any program of coloniza- 
tion or for planned communities, as its funds could clearly be used 
in making loans to individual families for the purchase of isolated 
homesteads. The subsistence homesteads program was left to be 
worked out by individuals within an action agency and without any 
clear mandate from Congress as to details. The planning of the pro- 
gram was freely turned over to the Executive. This "blank check/' so 
typical of the emergency legislation of 1933, would of necessity have 
to be written in terms of only a few of the many conflicting ideas 
about what subsistence homesteads should be. Eventually, the few 
ideas selected would have to be exposed to the often cruel test of ex- 
perience. The result was to be one of the most interesting social 
experiments in American history. 

Part Two 


J* V 

The Subsistence Homesteads Program 

IN accordance with the expressed provisions of the earlier Bank- 
head subsistence homesteads bills, President Roosevelt designated 
Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, to carry out the provisions 
of Section 208 (the subsistence homesteads section) of Title II of the 
National Industrial Recovery Act. Already, the other parts of Title 
II (the public works program) had been given to Ickes. Since Sec- 
tion 208 contained almost no guide as to how the $25,000,000 for 
subsistence homesteads should be spent, Ickes could have placed 
the program in his Public Works Administration, which was headed 
by Robert D. Kohn. With his experience in city planning and public 
housing in World War I and in the Regional Planning Association, 
Kohn wanted to use the funds to establish a few farm colonies and 
several garden cities of the Radburn type. 1 

Ickes decided to place subsistence homesteads in a separate pro- 
gram, and, either by letter or at a special meeting on subsistence home- 
steads on July 26, 1933, he sought advice from practically everyone 
interested in garden cities, farm colonies, or the back-to-the-land move- 
ment. He contacted Henry I. Harriman, president of the United States 
Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Arthur E. Morgan of the Tennessee Valley 

1 Memorandum on Subsistence Homesteads by Robert D. Kohn, July 8, 1933, 
Record Group 48, Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, National 
Archives (to be cited hereafter as R.G. 48, National Archives). 


94 Tomorrow a "New World 

Authority, John Nolen, one of America's best-known city planners, 
Bruce Melvin, a rural sociologist, Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agri- 
culture, Elwood Mead, Bernarr Macfadden, Rexford Guy Tugwell, M. 
L. Wilson, and many of the farm economists. Among the different in- 
dividuals suggested as possible directors of the subsistence homesteads 
program were Dean Thomas Cooper of the agricultural college of the 
University of Kentucky, Oscar L. Chapman, Assistant Secretary of the 
Interior, Hugh MacRae, the successful organizer of the farm colonies 
in North Carolina, M. L. Wilson, and Elwood Mead. In what was 
an all-important decision, Ickes selected M. L. Wilson for the position. 
By August 1, 1933, Wilson and Ickes were corresponding about policies 
for the new program. 2 

Wilson, who left the important Wheat Section of the Agricultural 
Adjustment Administration in order to direct the subsistence home- 
steads program, brought with him not only a well-formulated plan 
for subsistence homesteads but a conscious, defined social philosophy 
as well. An agricultural economist by profession, he was a philosopher 
by temperament. A mild, conciliatory individual, Wilson, along with 
Wallace, helped temper bureaucracy with philosophical discussions 
in the rapidly expanding New Deal Department of Agriculture, lead- 
ing to one of the most interesting experiments in self-conscious 
bureaucracy in American history. 3 M. L., as he was always called, 
drew his philosophy from three not unrelated sources: pragmatism, 
cultural anthropology, and, most clearly, the institutional economics 
of John R. Commons. Coloring his formal beliefs was always a tinge 
of dust from the wide fields of Iowa and Montana, for Wilson always 
had a sentimental, as well as a rationalized, love for agriculture. 

Wilson remained calm in a period of rapid, stirring change. He saw 
the need, even the necessity, of institutional changes, but he recog- 
nized and, most important, accepted the difficulty of change. He be- 
lieved that adjustment was required constantly as the environment 
changed, but that the problems involved in adjustment were never 
simple. Ultimately, they were cultural problems, involving moral and 
philosophical issues, traditional beliefs, attitudes, customs, and institu- 

2 Henry I. Harriman to Ickes, July 22, 1933; Tennessee Valley Authority to 
Ickes, July 21, 1933; Chapman to Ickes, July 19, 1933; Elwood Mead to Ickes, 
Aug. 3, 1933; Rexford G. Tugwell to Ickes, July 21, 1933; all in R.G. 48, National 

3 Russell Lord, "M. L. Wilson, Nutritionist," Land, II (1942-1943), 309-312. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 95 

tions. Thus, reform could not be rapid, for it required generations 
instead of years, and reform measures had to be judged on how well 
they met the only vaguely known psychic needs of man and not on 
their formal perfection. Psychological and cultural insight was more 
important than technical competency. Reforms could not be purely 
economic, for adjustment involved whole cultural patterns, myths as 
well as facts. Associated with passing institutions were many virtues, 
moral values, and even religious ideals. Wilson believed that there 
was, in 1933, a serious maladjustment between the world of things 
and the world of thought, or, in more popular terms, a serious cultural 
lag. How to reconcile the two worlds was the problem. 4 

An attitude of good will and a rejection of absolutes were, according 
to Wilson, indispensable to successful adjustment to change. Wilson 
both believed in and practiced tolerance toward other men with vary- 
ing ideas. Unlike many of the reformers of his day, he credited other 
people, businessmen as well as farmers, with intelligence and high 
intentions. Thus, he was able to include diverse individuals in his 
programs and even to encourage friendly controversy. He believed 
that bitterness, personal and class conflict, and intolerance prevented 
understanding and accomplishment. He deplored a tendency to blame 
the slowness of change on "vested interests," believing that such a 
tendency would lead to a personal-devil theory and to class an- 
tagonism. Just as much, he feared the results of dogmatism. A firm 
believer in the existence of social change as well as natural evolution, 
Wilson was a relativist and a pragmatist. In his view, man lives 
briefly and sees only a small segment of the universe. Only this small 
segment does he know. To adjust to this, his world, man needs new, 
creative thinking instead of old, exclusive doctrines. But yet the old, 
with its legacy of both valuable and antiquated ideas, with its "truths" 
and its myths, is modified only with great difficulty. Education may 
hold an answer, according to Wilson, but not education in the sense of 
a social scientist or an expert telling people the "truth," for quite 
likely the expert himself needs educating. Only by developing a 
critical sense, a broader point of view, and a creative imagination 

4 M. L. Wilson, "Beyond Economics," in Farmers in a Changing World: The 
Yearbook of Agriculture, 1940 (Washington, 1940), pp. 925-927; M. L. Wilson, 
"Great Decisions upon Which the Future of Rural Life Will Depend," Proceed- 
ings of the American Country Life Association, 18th Conference (Columbus, Ohio, 
1935), pp. 94-95. 

96 Tomorrow a New World 

does education contribute to the difficult task of adjustment. Only 
this type of education would permit necessary social experimentation 
to be carried out in a democratic atmosphere, with numerous com- 
mittees and unending discussions. Only this type of education could 
lead to the consideration and the questioning of fundamental values. 
"Philosophic probing, if it is sincere and deep enough," Wilson said, 
"can realine our total thinking in such a way as to alter the nature of 
our attack upon those problems, for which immediate, calculable, 
and practical programs are possible." 5 

Democracy was the nearest thing to an absolute to Wilson. As a 
national planner advocating broad changes in American life, he was 
sincerely concerned over whether, in an increasingly complex eco- 
nomic system, with its required public controls, American society 
"is capable of producing a kind of supergovernmental economic and 
social intelligence which can function in harmony with our dem- 
ocratic heritage and attitude of mind." 6 But if democracy was to sur- 
vive, believed Wilson, the new planning and the new governmental 
controls had to be built from the ground up, and on the solid rock of 
democratic opinion. Governments may provide the "devices whereby 
the rank and file may set their local problems into a national perspec- 
tive, help to articulate the opinions that are formed on this basis, and 
finally assist in turning ideas into action." T But always, the planning 
had to spring from the people. The people plan in a democracy; they 
are not planned. Said Wilson: "When you try to move things faster 
than the awakened will and understanding of the people, it isn't good 
education and it isn't democracy." 8 Wilson would not depart from this. 
It was incorporated into the Agricultural Adjustment Administration 
through the principle of reliance on local committees. To Wilson, 
decentralized organization and local participation had to be at the 
heart of any lasting subsistence homesteads program. 

Wilson was enough of an agrarian to deplore some of the trends of 
an industrial, materialistic society, but he did not make a reactionary 

5 Wilson, "Beyond Economics," pp. 924-930. 

6 M. L. Wilson, "How New Deal Agencies Are Affecting Family Life," Journal 
of Home Economics, XXVII (1935), 275. 

7 Wilson, "Beyond Economics," p. 925. 

8 M. L. Wilson, as quoted in an unpublished first draft of Russell Lord and 
Paul H. Johnstone, A Place on Earth: A Critical Appraisal of Subsistence Home- 
steads (published in Washington, 1942), in R.G. 83, National Archives. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 97 

appeal to past gods and past authorities. Instead, he viewed modern 
civilization from the viewpoint of a humanist who desired a "better 
life" for everyone and, because of background or philosophy, defined 
the "better life" in such a way that it always included some contact 
with the soil and the countryside. Wilson was aware of the freeing 
potentialities of technological improvements. He was not anti-indus- 
trial. Although he appreciated the values and the beauties of the 
old farm, he never joined Ralph Borsodi in a retreat from modernity. 
Rather, he wished to stop and look about before continuing the march 
onward toward more and more technology and efficiency. He desired 
the economic security, social stability, neighborliness, lack of social 
pressure, and social participation of America's agricultural past, while 
he believed that much of city life was unnatural, leading to frustra- 
tions, taxed nervous systems, and decreased physical vitality. 9 He 
believed that the trend toward urbanization, centralization, and in- 
creased commercialism was not necessary and desirable for all people 
and that more and more people were likely to be squeezed out of the 
economic system by progress. Because of economic necessity, some 
farmers and industrial workers would have to live on subsistence 
homesteads, perhaps with a subsidy from society. Apart from economic 
reasons, some people would aesthetically revolt against the "jazz- 
industrial age," choosing instead subsistence homesteads and in- 
dustrial decentralization. 10 For both of those groups there could be a 
real gain, for "there are certain moral and spiritual values for all of 
us coming from this contact with the soil and from living with grow- 
ing things." n 

On August 1, 1933, Wilson outlined to Ickes his thoughts on how 
best to use the $25,000,000 subsistence homesteads appropriation. 
Because of the limited funds, Wilson advised widely distributed 
experimental communities as object lessons in the decentralization 
of industry and in the creation of a new pattern of life, with greater 
security and more opportunity for the constructive use of leisure time. 
He recommended a federal plan of administration, with decentralized 

M. L. Wilson, "Science and Folklore in Rural Life," in Oliver E. Baker, Ralph 
Borsodi, and M. L. Wilson, Agriculture in Modern Life (New York, 1939), pp. 

10 Russell Lord, "M. L. Wilson: Pioneer," Survey Graphic, XXX (1941), 691. 

11 M. L. Wilson, Farm Relief and Allotment Plan (Day and Hour Series no. 2, 
University of Minnesota; Minneapolis, 1933), p. 50. 

98 Tomorrow a New World 

administration and responsibility. The communities, which were to be 
located near available employment, were to include four types: 
experimental farm colonies, subsistence gardens for city workers, 
colonies for stranded workers, and, primarily, homesteads for part- 
time industrial workers. He also desired a research program and close 
co-operation with the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and 
Labor, with state governments, and with agricultural colleges. 12 On 
August 23, 1933, the Division of Subsistence Homesteads was officially 
organized in the Department of the Interior. In addition to Wilson, 
early staff members included Clarence Pickett of the American Friends 
Service Committee; Dr. Carl C. Taylor, a leading rural sociologist 
at North Carolina State College; Bruce Melvin, a sociologist; and Roy 
Hendrickson, an Iowa newspaper reporter. Additional staff members 
were borrowed from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. 13 

The early staff of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads was 
confronted with tremendous policy problems. Very few colonization 
schemes had succeeded in the past, and almost none had combined 
industry with part-time agriculture. Despite the growth of research 
in land utilization, there was only one current study of subsistence 
farming. 14 This paucity of research led to later criticism of the 
subsistence homesteads program, 15 but Wilson could not await the 
completion of any elaborate studies. With Civil Works Administration 
funds, the Division of Subsistence Homesteads did launch extensive 
research projects on part-time farming in most states, but in 1934 
the Civil Works Administration funds were withdrawn before most of 
the projects were completed. Wilson frankly proposed to find answers 
and develop policies through experimentation, although he had a vast 
knowledge of past and existing colonization schemes. 16 He believed 
that past colonies had failed because of poor location, remoteness, 
paternalism, politics, poor settlers, or unsound promotion. He thought 
success possible with subsistence homesteads communities because of 

Memorandum from M. L. Wilson to Ickes, Aug. 1, 1933, R.G. 48, National 

13 Russell Lord and Paul H. Johnstone, A Place on Earth: A Critical Appraisal 
of Subsistence Homesteads (Washington, 1942), pp. 40-41. 

14 David Rozman, "Part-Time Farming in Massachusetts," in Massachusetts 
Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin no. 266 (1930), pp. 104-146. 

^Leonard A. Salter, Jr., "Research and Subsistence Homesteads," Rural Soci- 
ology, II (1937), 207-208. 

10 M. L. Wilson, "Place of Subsistence Homesteads in Our National Economy," 
Journal of Farm Economics, XVI (1934), 81. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 99 

the developments in land-use planning, because of the movement for 
decentralization of industry, and because of the new tendencies in 
American life, such as the movement back to the land and to the 
suburbs. 17 Certainly the dangers and pitfalls of the program were 
visualized. Roy Hendrickson drew up seventy-six possible or probable 
mistakes. Significantly, in light of later experience, the first two of these 
were: poor land or inadequate water and mistaken assumptions about 
employment opportunities. 18 

Both a help and a hindrance in the early attempts to develop a 
concrete, practical program for the Division of Subsistence Homesteads 
were the many individuals and groups with dogmatic ideas about 
what subsistence homesteads should be. From some of these Wilson 
drew many practical ideals while mildly rejecting at least part of the 
doctrines behind the ideas. From Ralph Borsodi and the escapist 
agrarians, who wanted to retreat from modernity and industrializa- 
tion, and from Hugh MacRae, who had paternalistic rural colonies in 
North Carolina, Wilson learned some of the practical problems of 
creating subsistence homesteads. Of less value were the ideas of 
people like Bernarr MacFadden, who felt that once the individual was 
out on the farm little more need be done for him. A constant problem 
was that of appeasing the farmers, who, despite the very diplomatic 
use of the word "subsistence," still feared government-sponsored 
competition. On the other side were the few industrialists who would 
have liked to use subsistence homesteads to anchor, at no expense to 
themselves, an ample, complacent labor force. 

Less important, but more interesting, were the thousands of sugges- 
tions that came from individuals all over the country. Every new idea on 
community life found its way eventually to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Elea- 
nor Roosevelt, Wilson, or the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. One 
person wanted to use subsistence homesteads for eugenic experiments; 
he planned to mix various bloodlines, such as introducing Quaker 
stock into an Alabama colony. 19 A dancing teacher wanted to use the 
subsistence homesteads appropriation to introduce Greek robes and 
aesthetic dancing into colonies of clumsy farmers. 20 A plan to revive 

17 M. L. Wilson, "New Land- Use Program: The Place of Subsistence Home- 
steads," Journal of Land and Public Utility Economics, X (1934), 3-9. 
18 Russell Lord, The Wallaces of Iowa (Boston, 1947), p. 426. 

19 Ibid., p. 423. 

20 Unpublished first draft of Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, R.G. 83, 
National Archives. 

100 Tomorrow a New World 

medieval craft guilds competed with the ideas of a brilliant psychol- 
ogist, who couched his plans in such language that no member of 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads could understand them. A 
persistent advocate of the "road town" finally, after weeks of fruitless 
promotion, plunged to his death from a window in New York City. 21 
From California came an earnest advocate of dairying colonies. He 
brought detailed blueprints of huge dairy barns which could hold 
2,000 cows each. An opening at the top ridgepole of each barn led to 
a secondary roof, which contained an electrical device for killing 
the cow flies that were sucked up to the trap. A chain of buckets 
carried the dead flies to manure spreaders. The electric power to 
circulate the chain of buckets, kill the flies, light the barn, and run the 
milkers was to be supplied by power-producing treadmills, operated 
by the exercise of twenty-four bulls (the exact number for 2,000 
cows). When told that his plan was too perfect, he was almost 
satisfied. 22 

In formulating policies Wilson had the advice of a group of dis- 
tinguished individuals who, sharing a common interest in subsistence 
homesteads, had voluntarily organized a National Advisory Com- 
mittee on Subsistence Homesteads. On the invitation of Henry I. Har- 
riman, United States Chamber of Commerce president, the committee 
held its first meeting on September 26, 1933, in order to formulate 
recommendations on subsistence homesteads. Attending were the 
following individuals: M. L. Wilson; Harold Ickes; Rexford G. Tug- 
well, then Undersecretary of Agriculture; Senator John H. Bankhead, 
father of the subsistence homesteads legislation; Hayden B. Harris, 
head of the Harris Trust and Savings Bank of Chicago and a strong 
supporter of subsistence homesteads for relief; William A. Julian, 
Treasurer of the United States and an advocate of industrial decentral- 
ization; Edward A. O'Neal, president of the American Farm Bureau; 
Louis J. Taber, master of the Grange; Bernarr Macfadden, back-to- 
the-lander extraordinary; Louis Brownlow, an expert in municipal 
government; Dr. John D. Black, an agricultural economist and friend 
of M. L. Wilson; Philip V. Garden, director of the Utah Experimental 
Station and an authority on Mormon colonies; Ralph E. Flanders, a 

21 Clarence Pickett, For More than Bread (Boston, 1953), pp. 50-51. 

22 Unpublished first draft of Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, R.G. 83, 
National Archives, 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 101 

Vermont manufacturer who employed part-time farmers; Dr. John 
A. Ryan, of the National Catholic Welfare Conference; Bernard G. 
Waring, a Philadelphia industrialist with a knowledge of conditions 
in the coal fields; George Soule, editor of the New Republic and 
formerly a member of Elwood Mead's commission to study coloniza- 
tion opportunities in the South; Meyer Jacobstein, economist, labor 
arbitrator, and politician; Dr. Philip Weltner, chancellor of the Univer- 
sity System of Georgia and promoter of one of the first subsistence 
homesteads; William Green of the American Federation of Labor; 
and Dr. Clark Foreman, a Department of the Interior adviser on the 
economic status of the Negroes. 23 The personnel on the committee 
reflected the broad interest in subsistence homesteads, as well as 
the desire of Wilson and other staff members to develop a wide 
public support for their movement. Because of the divergent interest 
groups represented, the committee bogged down in endless discus- 
sions before issuing fifteen rather general recommendations. These 
followed most of Wilson's ideas in asking for experimental commun- 
ities, the maximum of local responsibility, close co-operation with 
local and federal agencies, agricultural guidance for the homesteaders, 
long-term credit, and, perhaps most important, local nonprofit corpora- 
tions to administer each project. 24 

Although most of the Advisory Committee's recommendations be- 
came the original policies of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, 
they did not encompass the philosophy of subsistence homesteads as 
developed by Wilson and his assistants. Wilson's emphasis on local 
autonomy and co-operation with local agricultural groups, his desire 
to avoid class antagonism and any rapid departure from the in- 
dividualistic basis of American society, his ability to reconcile dif- 
ferences between antagonistic groups, his wide range of friends, 
from industrialists to agrarians, and his great prestige among agricul- 
turalists helped allay any fears of radicalism in the early subsistence 
homesteads program. Support was won from diverse groups. In many 

23 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 42; a press release, Department 
of the Interior, Sept. 25, 1933, Record Group 16, Records of the Office of the 
Secretary of Agriculture, 1935-1937, National Archives (to be cited hereafter as 
R.G. 16, National Archives). 

24 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Subsistence Home- 
stead Movement under National Recovery Act/' Monthly Labor Review, XXXVII 
(1933), 1327-1328. 

102 Tomorrow a New World 

ways, Wilson was at his best as a liaison man and an arbitrator and 
not as an administrator. This early atmosphere of good feelings 
tended to conceal the fact that Wilson, and most of his assistants, 
viewed subsistence homesteads as a new frontier, as the locale for 
a new way of life, with new and controversial values and institutions. 
Even as they envisoned certain material and economic benefits from 
subsistence homesteads, such as better diets, security, a cushion against 
unemployment, a better place to raise children, a closer association 
with nature, less social pressures, cheaper living expenses, and a 
better use of leisure time, they also envisioned a new, improved man, 
with new attitudes and new values. 25 

The subsistence homesteads community, with its gardens and neigh- 
borhood industry, was, in Wilson's mind, an ideal to be achieved, 
perhaps with difficulty, for it did not fit many existing patterns and 
would require extensive adjustments. In some ways he shared a type 
of idealism that had influenced all the community builders of the 
past. He envisioned a new village life, with handicrafts, community 
activities, closer family relationships, and co-operative enterprises. 
He called it the "community idea." 2G It featured a retreat from ex- 
treme materialism and from a highly individualistic, competitive 
society to a more simple, more secure, more socially minded existence. 
But the average American, believed Wilson, would not readily adjust 
to such a village or community life. Man himself would have to 
change. This comes close to the heart of Wilson's thoughts and aims. 
He said: "Somehow, or in some way, attitudes and lives of the families 
who occupy these communities must be integrated so as to provide a 
new and different view of life and a new and different set of family 
values." 2T To Wilson, there would be a dual process. On one hand, 
there would have to be an extensive education program to help de- 
velop the attitudes necessary for an integrated community life. On 
the other hand, life in subsistence homesteads communities would 
help develop the new attitudes. Thus, he believed that co-operative 
institutions would develop, serving as aids to "creative community 
development." Perhaps his greatest hope was expressed in the follow- 

25 Wilson, "New Land-Use Program," pp. 10-12; M. L. Wilson, "Decentraliza- 
tion of Industry in the New Deal/' Social Forces, XIII (1935), 597-598. 

20 Wilson, "Place of Subsistence Homesteads in Our National Economy," p. 81. 
^Wilson, "How New Deal Agencies Are Affecting Family Life," p. 227. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 103 

ing statement: "Co-operation will be the basis of our future society 
if we are to maintain our individual freedom and not bow to the force 
of a dictator. I believe that the subsistence homesteads community 
can well serve as a cradle for a new growth of the co-operative at- 
titude." 28 

Even as policies and aims were being formulated, the Division of 
Subsistence Homesteads was preparing for an action program. The 
original five full-time employees of the division occupied three rooms 
in the Interior building, but were quickly swamped by a flood of 
correspondence. By October there were twenty-three people in the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads, occupying a whole floor of the 
Hurley Wright Building. Almost as quickly as the $25,000,000 ap- 
propriation for subsistence homesteads was announced, letters, thou- 
sands of letters, began to pour into Washington, usually addressed 
to Franklin D. or Eleanor Roosevelt, both of whom had taken a great 
interest in the subsistence homesteads movement. Everyone wanted 
some of the money for himself or for his area of the country. By 
February, 1934, the requests for loans amounted to $4,500,000,000. 29 
From these requests the Division of Subsistence Homesteads had to 
select the most deserving. 

The largest share of the letters received by the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads (all had to be answered) were personal requests 
for loans, despite division press releases explaining that only com- 
munity settlements were planned. Other letters were from individuals 
or real estate promoters who wanted to unload a piece of land or 
from leading citizens or the Chamber of Commerce of cities, re- 
questing a subsistence homesteads community for their area. Almost 
every city in the United States could prove that it most needed or 
most deserved a subsistence homesteads community. A few people 
wanted employment in the division, and thousands wanted the division 
to adopt their particular scheme. A few letters offered excellent advice 
and were individually answered ( most were answered by form letters ) . 

28 M. L. Wilson, "The Subsistence Homesteads Program," Proceedings of the 
Institute of Public Affairs, 1934, VIII (1934), pt. i, 171-172. 

29 M. L. Wilson to B. L. Berg, Feb. 24, 1934, Record Group 96, Records of 
the Farmers' Home Administration (includes records of the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads, the Resettlement Administration, and the Farm Security 
Administration), National Archives (to be cited hereafter as R.G. 96, National 
Archives ) . 

104 Tomorrow a New World 

Some merely disgusted the staff of the division. One man in a Michigan 
city asked that the division establish a colony well away from his 
community in order to settle there all the Negroes of his city, which, 
according to him, had a serious Negro problem. 30 One woman wrote 
a 150-page letter to Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt, recounting a life of un- 
believable misfortune and asking for money to purchase a farm. 31 
One man, asking for a loan for a subsistence homestead, complained 
that his family was in poor health "due to the carbon monoxide poison 
which accumulates in New York City on a heavy day." 32 On re- 
ceiving one of the standard, explanatory replies, he protested that he 
merely wanted money to buy "a tent and build a homestead in 
Florida" and was not interested in "coal-miners, negroes and starving 
farmers and the rest of the horseradish soup." 33 Some wrote in 
groups, as the following people from Arkansas: "We are 100 familys 
which like to buy 3000 to 5000 acres of U.S. land For to colonize in 
state of Arkansaw." 34 One person wrote a poem to President Roose- 

Our state has thousands of acres of logged off land 
Where timber again will never stand 
Also thousands of families unemployed 
That FDR could make overjoyed. 

Build a nice little house and also a barn 

Put on a cow and some chickens and pigs and do no harm 

With a chance like this ten out of eleven 

Would think they were at the gate of heaven. 

A home is one thing we would all enjoy 
And if any one can do this you are the boy 
Now what do you think Franklin D. 
I am sure that you'll agree with me. 35 

After examining some 400 proposals that possessed some merit, 
Wilson announced, on October 14, 1933, that the division would 
concentrate on three types of colonies. First, and primarily, there 

30 Burrall G. Newman to M. L. Wilson, Feb. 20, 1934, ibid. 

31 Lizzie Crane to Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt, Feb. 27, 1934, ibid. 
82 Samuel Bernstein to M. L. Wilson, Feb., 1934, ibid. 

33 Bernstein to Wilson, Feb. 22, 1934, ibid. 

34 K. A. M. Bergenstal to U.S. Department of Agriculture, Jan. 30, 1934, ibid. 
85 Dave Z. Murphy to F. D. R., Jan., 1934, ibid. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 105 

would be communities of part-time farmers near industrial employ- 
ment. Secondly, there would be all-rural colonies for resettled sub- 
marginal farmers. Thirdly, there would be a few villages with newly 
decentralized industry. The last were to be the most experimental 
and the most controversial communities. They included the com- 
munities for stranded coal miners, which represented a continuation 
of Assistant Director Clarence Pickett's work as head of the American 
Friends Service Committee and which were of particular interest 
to Mrs. Roosevelt and Louis M. Howe. Wilson also announced that the 
communities would be constructed either by a federal corporation or 
by a local corporation, both of which were being planned. For the 
guidance of those interested in specific projects, Wilson stipulated 
that, to receive the division's approval, any proposal would have to 
have strong local backing, including the co-operation and planning 
aid of the state colleges of agriculture, the agricultural experiment 
stations, and the Extension Service. 36 At this time many local groups 
and committees were already formulating proposals to submit to the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads. 

In November, after a few projects had already been approved, 
the division published its first information circular, explaining the 
purposes and policies of the subsistence homesteads program. The 
circular contrasted the permanent nature of subsistence homesteads 
with temporary relief schemes, related the new communities to a 
broader program of public housing, national economic planning, and 
population redistribution, and stressed the experimental and demon- 
strational purposes of the projects. 37 The typical community was 
described as containing from 25 to 100 families living on individual 
homesteads of from one to five acres, which would accommodate 
an orchard, a vegetable garden, poultry, a pig, and, in some cases, a 
cow. Eventual ownership was promised for most colonists. The com- 
munity sites were to be approved by agricultural experts, and the 
homestead development had to be in accordance with approved plan- 
ning, architectural, and engineering practices. Houses were to be 
moderate in cost, but in conformity with standards of convenience, 

30 Progress Report by M. L. Wilson, Oct. 14, 1933, ibid. 

37 U.S. Department of the Interior, Division of Subsistence Homesteads, General 
Information concerning the Purposes and Policies of the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads (Circular no. 1; Washington, Nov. 15, 1933), pp. 1-6. 

106 Tomorrow a New World 

durability, attractiveness, and sanitation, with essential utilities pro- 
vided. The homesteaders, selected from low-income groups, were to 
be chosen only after an inquiry into character traits, agricultural 
fitness, employment prospects, and other factors. In all cases the 
federal funds were to be lent and not granted, with repayment over 
a period of thirty years at 4 per cent interest. The funds were to be 
lent by a Federal Subsistence Homesteads Corporation to local cor- 
porations at the community level. 38 

After an extensive study of the many legal problems involved, 
Secretary Ickes announced the formation of a Federal Subsistence 
Homesteads Corporation on December 2, 1933. Incorporated under 
Delaware law, the corporation was to be an action agency for the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads. The stock was to be held in 
trust by Ickes. Shortly thereafter, subsidiary local corporations were 
formed for most of the prospective homestead projects. The parent 
corporation held the stock issued by the local corporations and thus 
had ultimate control over their policies. This corporate device, which 
had been suggested to Ickes by the Attorney General as early as 
August, 1933, was adopted to meet four needs: to acquire, hold, and 
dispose of title to land, buildings, and personal property and to enter 
contracts with borrowers, purchasers, and architects; to assure local 
administration and support; to remove the aura of paternalism and 
to differentiate the subsistence homesteads communities from relief 
projects; and, perhaps most important, to free the subsistence home- 
steads program from the procedural technicalities and delays that 
hampered the operations of a United States Government that was ill 
adapted to the vastly increased activities of the New Deal period. 39 

The corporate device promised to clear up some of the problems 
attendant upon a rather broad program of community building that 
had no well-defined legal basis. Section 208 clearly permitted loans 
for subsistence homesteads; beyond that, it gave only the general 
authority for "otherwise aiding." If this entailed the creation of com- 
plete communities and the governmental ownership of the land, Sec- 
tion 208 contained no provisions to clarify certain legal points in- 
volved. Complete communities create a large demand for local public 

S8 Ibid., pp. 6-12. 

39 Philip M. Click, "The Federal Subsistence Homestead Program," Yale Law 
Journal, XLIV (1935), 1332-1335. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 107 

services, such as schools and roads. Yet federally owned property 
is not taxable by lesser governmental units, while the subsistence 
homesteads legislation made no provision for payments in lieu of 
taxes. At the same time the federal government was legally prevented 
from building schools, a function reserved to the states. This created 
a dilemma in respect to the local acceptance of subsistence homesteads 
communities. Certainly the homesteaders would not be welcome un- 
less they paid their share of the local tax burden. In addition, the 
existence of state civil and criminal jurisdiction and even the right 
to vote were apparently endangered by federal ownership. It was 
feared that subsistence homesteads communities would become fed- 
eral islands on the order of Indian reservations. It was hoped that the 
locally organized corporations would permit local taxation and local 
jurisdiction. 40 Later interpretations did not justify these hopes in re- 
gard to taxation. 

The local corporation appeared to be an excellent device for carry- 
ing out all the local work of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. 
It could borrow the money, construct the communities, and issue 
purchase contracts to homesteaders. Local sponsors and prominent 
citizens would be on its Board of Directors, insuring local interest 
and support. Later, when the communities were completed, the cor- 
poration could collect payments from the homesteaders and manage 
the community. As the homesteaders gained an equity in their homes, 
they would be given the stock of the corporation, making them joint 
owners of their own community. With its abilities to use ordinary 
business procedures, it could purchase land and contract for con- 
struction with much greater speed than could the government. It was 
really the foundation of Wilson's administrative organization. 41 

The community projects approved by the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads exhibited an endless variety. The first loan was granted 
in October, 1933, to Ralph Borsodi's homestead project in Dayton, 
Ohio. Borsodi was the adviser to a Council of Social Agencies in 
Dayton which already had planned several small homestead com- 
munities. The ideas back of these plans combined the need for relief 
with Borsodi's escapist agrarianism and an emphasis on self-help. 
Homesteaders were to build their own homes, grow subsistence crops 
on a small acreage, carry on group activities, and have a common 

40 Ibid., pp. 1345-1349, 1367. "Ibid., p. 1335. 

108 Tomorrow a New World 

pasture and wood lot, while receiving wages for part-time employment 
in Dayton. Weaving, sewing, and other family crafts were to be de- 
veloped. Homesteads were to be leased to clients in a modified single- 
tax system. 42 A small loan of $50,000 for the first of the planned 
communities was all Borsodi ever received from the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads. His Dayton project was the only one in which 
the government never owned the land. From the beginning Borsodi 
resisted any federal control over his project, desiring financial aid 
without governmental control. 

The second project, also approved in October, was, by far, the most 
controversial and the most publicized of all the subsistence home- 
steads. It was a projected community of 200 family units for stranded 
coal miners at Reeds ville, West Virginia. Growing directly from the 
work of Clarence Pickett and the humanitarian interest of Eleanor 
Roosevelt, this project, which was soon to be named Arthurdale after 
the name of a former owner of the estate, was the first to be de- 
veloped and was the site of much open experimentation, countless 
mistakes, and many hard-learned lessons. It will receive detailed atten- 
tion in a later chapter. In December, 1933, and January, 1934, three 
other stranded workers' communities were announced by the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads. These were Cumberland Homesteads, 
near Crossville, Tennessee; Tygart Valley Homesteads, near Elkins, 
West Virginia; and Westmoreland Homesteads, near Greensburg, 
Pennsylvania. They were planned for from 250 to 300 units each and 
were the largest of the subsistence homesteads. They were designed 
for unemployed miners who had been stranded since the closing of 
coal mines as far back as 1920. Tygart Valley was planned in connection 
with a large forest area which promised some opportunity for em- 
ployment. The four stranded communities presented unique and 
almost insurmountable problems, as well as unending embarrassment, 
to the Division of Subsistence Homesteads and its successor agencies. 
They were the only subsistence homesteads to be settled by destitute 
relief clients who had no opportunity for employment. Since they 
were planned only for part-time farming, with very small plots of 
ground, some type of industrial employment was essential. Either in- 
dustry had to move voluntarily to these communities or the Division 

42 Ralph Borsodi, "Dayton, Ohio, Makes Social History," Nation, CXXXVI 
(1933), 447-448. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 109 

of Subsistence Homesteads had to find some method of providing 
economic security, else the homesteaders would remain stranded gov- 
ernment wards, even though they lived in bright new homes. This 
economic problem was never solved completely. 

Perhaps the most interesting community developed by the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads was Jersey Homesteads near Hightstown, 
New Jersey. Since it was also a very controversial one, it too will 
be discussed in detail in a later chapter. Two hundred Jewish garment- 
workers in New York City banded together to establish the colony 
at Hightstown. Supplementing the funds authorized by the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads with individual contributions of $500 
each, they planned a co-operative garment factory, a co-operative 
farm, and consumer co-operatives. In many ways Jersey Homesteads 
was to be more of a garden or satellite city than a part-time farm- 
ing, part-time industrial community. Because of long delays in its 
planning, its construction was entirely carried out by the Resettlement 

M. L. Wilson and his closest advisers, all particularly interested in 
agricultural problems, desired to establish a few all-rural colonies to 
absorb submarginal farmers and to demonstrate the possibilities of 
organized rural communities. In this they were following the lead 
of Elwood Mead, who had tried to get the government to establish 
a few such colonies in the South. Since the University System of 
Georgia already had made plans for moving about 500 farmers from 
eroded, worn-out farms to new lands where they could practice 
diversified farming, the Division of Subsistence Homesteads an- 
nounced its support of this plan in January, 1934. A million dollars 
was authorized for the project, which was named Piedmont Home- 
steads. Although over 11,000 acres of land were purchased, Piedmont 
suffered innumerable delays and legal difficulties. Only 50 homestead 
units were completed. 

In North Carolina, Hugh MacRae, who for years had been trying 
to get governmental support for his type of intensively cultivated 
farm colonies, succeeded in getting Wilson's approval for another 
proposed million-dollar colony. Located in Pender County, North 
Carolina, and named Penderlea Homesteads, MacRae's colony was 
planned for 300 families who were to derive all their income from 
ten-acre farms. Its turbulent history will be traced in a subsequent 

110 Tomorrow a New World 

chapter. The only other full-time farming colony, a small project, 
Richton Homesteads, at Richton, Mississippi, was approved in April, 
1934, and actually was constructed by the Resettlement Administra- 
tion. In Wisconsin a homestead community for workers in a national 
forest was planned by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads but 
later was turned over to the Forest Service. The rural projects were 
defended against the wrath of farmers and farming organizations on 
the ground that they would produce only nonsurplus crops for sale. 
Involved in them was an attempt to convert a few tenant farmers 
into landowners. 

Before June 30, 1934, which marked the end of Wilson's work 
in the Division of Subsistence Homesteads and an important change 
in policies, approximately thirty-one industrial-type subsistence home- 
steads were announced, although of these only twenty-three were 
ever completed. As a whole, these were more successful and less 
controversial than the stranded-workers or the rural type, although 
much less publicized. From a financial standpoint, several of these 
were to prove the most successful of any of the communities con- 
structed by the New Deal. They more nearly conformed to the in- 
tentions of the subsistence homesteads legislation and to the ideas of 
most of the administrators of the subsistence homesteads program. 
In one sense they were the only true subsistence homesteads, com- 
bining access to part-time industrial employment with an opportunity 
to earn a partial subsistence from the land. All of them were located 
within commuting distance of some type of industrial employment, 
in either a small or large city. Almost invariably they were small 
communities of from 25 to 125 units, with an average of from two to 
five acres to each homestead. Either as single colonies or as a re- 
lated group of colonies, they were almost always sponsored by a 
local corporation. Beyond these similarities they offered great varia- 
tions, but in most ways conformed to the following official definition 
of a subsistence homestead: 

A subsistence homestead denotes a house and out buildings located upon 
a plot of land on which can be grown a large portion of the foodstuffs 
required by the homestead family. It signifies production for home con- 
sumption and not for commercial sale. In that it provides for subsistence 
alone, it carries with it the corollary that cash income must be drawn from 
some outside source. The central motive of the subsistence homestead pro- 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 111 

gram, therefore, is to demonstrate the economic value of a livelihood which 
combines part-time wage work and part-time gardening or farming. 43 

Over half of the completed industrial homesteads were located in 
three groups in the South. Five homesteads were secured for the area 
around Jasper and Birmingham, Alabama, perhaps because of the 
influence of Senator Bankhead. 44 Designed for commuting workers, 
they were handicapped by being too far from the larger cities. One 
of the proposed Alabama colonies, Cahaba, was converted into a 
small greenbelt city by the Resettlement Administration. The other 
four, Bankhead Farms, Greenwood Homesteads, Mount Olive Home- 
steads, and Palmerdale Homesteads, were all semirural. In Texas five 
garden projects of from 50 to 100 units each were developed near 
five cities. These were Houston Gardens near Houston, Beauxart 
Gardens near Beaumont, Wichita Gardens near Wichita Falls, Three 
Rivers Gardens near Three Rivers, and Dalworthington Gardens near 
Arlington. Three Rivers Gardens involved a guarantee of part-time 
employment by two local industrialists. 45 Four of the smallest com- 
munities, Tupelo, McComb, Hattiesburg, and Magnolia Homesteads, 
were constructed near Tupelo, McComb, Hattiesburg, and Meridian, 
Mississippi. Each of these contained from 20 to 35 units, with a com- 
bined total of only 104. Because of their small size and their proximity 
to their parent cities, they never became distinct communities in 

Only four subsistence homesteads were completed west of the 
Rockies. At Phoenix a garden community for 300 families was planned, 
but only 25 homes were constructed. Although on plots of less than 
an acre, the homesteaders shared a community pasture. 46 In the 
suburbs of Los Angeles, two communities, El Monte and San Fer- 
nando Homesteads, were planned by local citizens of Los Angeles as 
demonstrations of small farm-home possibilities. Backed by the Los 
Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the County Planning Board, 
planned by local architects, and located on excellent land, they were to 

43 U.S. Department of the Interior, Division of Subsistence Homesteads, Bulletin 
1 (Washington, 1934), p. 4. 

"For an excellent account of the Alabama colonies see Paul W. Wager, One 
Foot on the Soil: A Study of Subsistence Homesteads in Alabama (Bureau of 
Public Administration at the University of Alabama, 1945). 

45 Memorandum on the Texas Project, n.d., R.G. 96, National Archives. 

40 C. B. Baldwin to Paul Appleby, May 26, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

112 Tomorrow a New World 

become, at least from the financial standpoint, two of the most suc- 
cessful of the subsistence homesteads. The Los Angeles sponsors did 
not form a local corporation, desiring federal control because of the 
avowed demonstrational purposes of the model communities. Want- 
ing a successful demonstration rather than relief, the communities 
were designed for skilled workers, clerks, and even retired people. 
The acreage of the individual homesteads was very small, being less 
than an acre at El Monte. 47 Another very successful homestead com- 
munity was located partly within the city limits of the relatively new, 
planned city of Longview, Washington. Here, in an area that already 
contained many part-time farmers and in a region that offered ample 
opportunities for part-time employment in the lumbering industry, 
the sixty homesteads of approximately two and one-half acres each 
were assured of success. Longview Homesteads received enthusiastic 
support from the citizens of Longview and quickly became an inte- 
grated part of the larger community, being only a new and very at- 
tractive subdivision. 48 

Five subsistence homesteads were eventually completed in the 
north central states, although two of these, Duluth Homesteads, 
Duluth, Minnesota, and Lake County Homesteads, near Chicago, Il- 
linois, were only planned by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads 
and actually were constructed by the Resettlement Administration. 
Austin Homesteads at Austin, Minnesota, was unique in being located 
near a one-factory town and in being sponsored by the president of 
that one factory, George A. Hormel of the Hormel Packing Company. 
Seventy per cent of the homesteaders at Austin were to be Hormel 
employees. 49 The fact that M. L. Wilson accepted the plans of Hormel 
and many other industrialists on other sponsoring committees re- 
flected his belief in the good intentions of industrial leaders and in 
the necessity of co-operation from industry in setting up part-time 
farming, part-time industrial communities. To some critics of sub- 
sistence homesteads, particularly those representing labor, such com- 
munities as Austin were only proof of their contention that the 

47 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 97-106; U.S. Department of Labor, 
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Subsistence Homesteads for Industrial and Rural 
Workers," Monthly Labor Review, XL (1935), 27. 

48 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Housing under the 
Resettlement Administration," Monthly Labor Review, XL1V (1937), 1393-1394. 

49 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 58-61. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 113 

subsistence homesteads program was anchoring a new group of in- 
dustrial serfs for exploitation by business. Located almost within the 
city of Decatur, Indiana, Decatur Homesteads, a small community of 
forty-eight units, was developed with the assistance of Purdue Uni- 
versity. The homesteaders at Decatur were promised work in the 
local General Electric Corporation plant. 50 At Granger, Iowa, a mod- 
erately successful community was promoted by Father Luigi G. 
Ligutti of the Catholic Rural Life Conference for part-time coal 
miners of several diverse nationalities. Granger Homesteads, which 
had much publicity from the Catholic press, will be discussed in 
more detail in a later chapter. 

These thirty-two communities, all planned by June, 1934, were, except 
two, the only subsistence homesteads ever to become completed com- 
munities, despite the fact that over fifty others were planned and, in some 
cases, land was purchased. One of the two other completed projects, 
Shenandoah Homesteads, was planned in June, 1934. It was a special- 
type project of seven widely scattered sections to absorb the mountain 
farmers who were being pushed out of the area of the Shenandoah Na- 
tional Park in Virginia. As such it became a political liability for the Re- 
settlement Administration. The other project, which was barely on 
the planning boards in May, 1935, when the Resettlement Administra- 
tion absorbed the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, was to become 
the first Negro subsistence homesteads community. It was located 
near Newport News, Virginia. At the very beginning of the sub- 
sistence homesteads program, M. L. Wilson had contemplated a loan 
to a community under construction by the Tennessee Valley Authority 
at Norris Dam. 51 The loan was not made, and Norris, Tennessee, 
remained in the hands of the Tennessee Valley Authority; it is the 
only New Deal community not within the scope of this study. Also 
contemplated in the earlier days, but never attempted, were some 
irrigation communities to be developed with the aid of the Reclama- 
tion Service. 52 

One of the crucial elements in the success of a subsistence home- 

50 Harold M. Ware and Webster Powell, "Planning for Permanent Poverty: 
What Subsistence Farming Really Stands For," Harper's Magazine, CLXX ( 1934- 
1935), 522. 

51 M. L. Wilson, Progress Report of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, 
Oct. 14, 1933, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

52 Division of Subsistence Homesteads, General Information, p. 8. 

114 Tomorrow a New World 

steads community was its location, in regard to both the fertility of 
the soil and the availability of industrial employment. Under M. L. 
Wilson the Washington staff of the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads did not select, except in a few cases, the location for com- 
munities. This was left to the local sponsors. But before the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads would approve a loan for a local project, 
the site had to be fully surveyed, analyzed by soil experts, and ex- 
pertly appraised. As a result, the local corporations usually called 
upon the state agricultural colleges and the local agricultural ex- 
periment stations for assistance in developing their detailed project 
plans. Much of the land appraisal was done by Federal Land Bank 
appraisers. Since the stranded communities grew out of the work of 
the American Friends Service Committee, their locations were se- 
lected by Clarence Pickett and the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads, with the aid of a Committee for Soil Surveys appointed by 
the Department of Agriculture to assist in the subsistence home- 
steads program. 53 

By January, 1934, nine project sites had been laid out. Construction 
was under way only at Reedsville (Arthurdale) and there without 
even the minimum amount of planning. The early site planning 
was done under the direction of the local corporations. At Penderlea, 
John Nolen, one of America's foremost city planners, designed the 
all-rural village. Local architects, assisted by agricultural experts, laid 
out most of the communities. Construction operations, which began 
on many of the projects in the spring of 1934, soon came under project 
managers appointed by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. 
House construction at Dayton, Cumberland, and Tygart Valley 
was originally carried out under the self-help idea, with the home- 
steaders building their own homes. Most of the smaller, industrial 
homesteads were constructed by contract. Some work on the stranded 
communities was done by relief labor under the supervision of 
project engineers. 

One of the early policy problems that led to endless debate was 
the question of house design and size. The protagonists ranged from 
Macfadden, who wanted only shacks, to Mrs. Roosevelt and many 
of the officials of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, who wanted 

53 M. L. Wilson to Ickes, Aug. 29, 1933, R.G. 48, National Archives; Ickes to 
the Acting Secretary of War, Sept. 29, 1933, ibid. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 115 

bathrooms and plumbing in four- or five-room houses. In general those 
who saw subsistence homesteads as a relief measure wanted smaller, 
cheaper homes than those, such as Wilson, who saw them as demon- 
strations of a new way of life. Both Ickes and President Roosevelt, 
seeking economy, wanted small, inexpensive houses with the plumb- 
ing left for the homesteader to install later. 54 Eventually Mrs. 
Roosevelt's ideas were accepted. With great variations, the subsistence 
homesteads houses never had less than four rooms and sometimes 
had up to six; they were constructed of durable materials and, in 
all but one or two cases, had bathrooms and electricity. In the North 
they sometimes had basements and central heating. Many of the 
local sponsors were fearful that the houses were going to be so ex- 
pensive that the homesteaders would never be able to afford them, 
for the idea of a possible government subsidy was not present in 
the early program. This fear led, in a few cases, to attempts at ex- 
treme economy in construction and to flimsy houses which were later 
rebuilt. In some cases the homes were close enough to larger cities 
to receive city water, Decatur and Longview being good examples. In 
a majority of cases individual wells were used. Tygart Valley, Houston 
Gardens, and a few other communities had central water systems. 
House construction was usually of native materials, with adobe used 
in Phoenix Homesteads and Crab Orchard sandstone at Cumberland 
Homesteads. Most of the communities were of frame or cinder-block 
construction. In every colony certain outbuildings were provided, 
ranging from garages in the garden suburbs to chicken houses, cow 
barns, and washhouses at those with the larger acreages. Combina- 
tion community buildings and schools were planned for the more 
isolated communities. 

At the end of Wilson's directorship in June, 1934, there were no 
houses occupied, although fifty homes were almost completed at 
Arthurdale. The problem of selecting homesteaders had already be- 
gun. In some areas, as where the homesteaders were building their 
own homes, the selection or tentative selection was necessary very 
early. Wilson turned the selection duties over to the local corpora- 
tions, but suggested certain procedures. He advised the appointment 
of local selection committees, the use of experienced investigators, 

54 Harold L. Ickes, The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes, vol. I, The First Thou- 
sand Days, 1933-1936 (New York, 1953), pp. 227-228. 

116 Tomorrow a New World 

an adequate familiarization program for applicants, and the require- 
ment of certain qualifications as to background, particularly in re- 
gard to farming experience, health, habits, stability, and financial 
status. 55 By June, 1934, the selection process had been federalized to 
the extent that local selections were approved at Washington. At 
that time 145 homesteaders had been definitely approved and 618 
tentatively approved out of 13,934 applicants for 2,176 homesteads. 56 
The first serious impediment to the subsistence homesteads pro- 
gram came from Congress in February, 1934. In October, 1933, the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads had hoped to complete the con- 
struction of at least a few houses at Arthurdale before the winter. 
Since no industry had shown any intention of establishing a factory 
at Arthurdale, the division sought some other means of securing em- 
ployment opportunities. The Post Office Department agreed to manu- 
facture certain postal equipment, including hardware and furniture, 
in a factory to be established at Arthurdale with Public Works Ad- 
ministration funds. The Post Office Department had been allotted 
$525,000 for the factory, had selected a site, and had drawn plans by 
February, 1934. When the plans were made public several furniture 
manufacturers took alarm, accusing the government of using tax 
funds to compete against private enterprise. Ickes argued that the 
factory would be used only as a yardstick to determine if the gov- 
ernment was paying too much for its postal supplies. The argument 
was then transferred to Congress, with congressmen from furniture 
manufacturing regions leading a campaign against the proposed fac- 
tory for Arthurdale. Congress had no way of preventing the Public 
Works Administration from allotting funds for a factory, but it could 
prevent any Post Office appropriations from being used in the West 
Virginia factory. Representative Louis Ludlow of Indiana, the con- 
gressman most incensed at the factory plan, introduced a restrictive 
amendment to the Post Office Department appropriation prohibiting 
any expenditure for the manufacture of postal supplies outside of 
Washington, D.C., where the Post Office Department was already in 

55 John B. Holt, An Analysis of Methods and Criteria Used in Selecting Families 
for Colonization Projects (Social Research Report no. 1, U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, Farm Security Administration and the Bureau of Agricultural Eco- 
nomics; Washington, 1937), pp. 36-37. 

58 Report of Operations Section, Division of Subsistence Homesteads, June 30, 
1934, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 117 

the mailbag business. The amendment, which passed by voice vote, 
killed the plan for Arthurdale unless the Senate rejected the amend- 
ment. 57 Ludlow declared that the proposed plant involved the eventual 
destruction of private business and violated "fundamental American 
philosophy." 58 Representative Daniel Reed of New York pointed to 
former legislation preventing government competition with business, 
to the idle furniture factories all over the nation, and to the ir- 
responsible bureaucrats who desired the "nationalization of indus- 
try." 59 

In the Senate an almost unnoticed move to strike out the House 
restriction was challenged by Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michi- 
gan, precipitating a floor debate, with the proposed factory being 
defended by Senator Kenneth D. McKellar of Tennessee, chairman 
of the Appropriations Committee. Vandenberg declared, with some 
reason, that the question at issue was whether or not the federal 
government should "embark upon an experiment in creating industrial 
communities under the subsistence plan." 60 He asked if the Senate 
wanted the government to enter this new field of business. The most 
resounding "No" came from a Democrat, Senator Josiah W. Bailey 
of North Carolina. He believed that approval of the factory would 
be the beginning of a process leading to government control of all 
industry, to a complete bureaucracy, to the overturn of all liberties, 
and to the absolute subversion of free government. 61 Other Senators 
countered his argument by pointing to the sorry record of private 
enterprise in running business. One Senator asked how anyone could 
be put to work without competing with someone. 62 By a vote of 34 
to 29 the Senate reversed the House decision and approved the fac- 
tory. The House promptly refused to concur in the Senate action by 
an overwhelming vote of 274 to 111. The Senate could only concede 
after this overwhelming expression of House sentiment. 63 Thus it 
was determined that, although the government might build sub- 
sistence homesteads and hope for industry to come, it could not pro- 
vide industry, at least not directly or openly. 

This action by Congress should not be construed as an attack on 
subsistence homesteads. Most of the congressmen showed little fa- 

57 C.R, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., 1934, pp. 1431-1432. "Ibid., p. 1359. 

59 Ibid., p. 1272. "Ibid., p. 2754. "Ibid., p. 2756. 

62 Ibid., pp. 2759, 3429. Ibid., pp. 3433, 3902. 

118 Tomorrow a New World 

miliarity with the subsistence homesteads program, and very few of 
them showed any animosity toward it. Many expressed sympathy 
for the objectives of the over-all program. The most bitter attack 
against subsistence homesteads came from Senator Thomas D. Schall 
of Minnesota, who referred to Arthurdale as the "communist project" 
and the "West Virginia commune." 64 On the other side, Representa- 
tive Jennings Randolph from the Arthurdale District was a consistent 
defender of the whole subsistence homesteads program. He even tried, 
unsuccessfully, to get a separate bill passed to authorize the Post 
Office factory at Arthurdale. 65 By far the most fervent supporter of 
subsistence homesteads was Representative Ernest W. Marland, who 
envisioned subsistence homesteads communities in every county of 
his home state of Oklahoma. He desired an appropriation of $4,000,- 
000,000 for subsistence homesteads, stressing that the back-to-the-land 
movement "must succeed, or we are all lost." 66 Before retiring to 
Oklahoma to run for governor and work for subsistence homesteads, 
Marland gave the following picture of a subsistence farm: 

A small farm with a wood lot for fuel, a pasture for cows, an orchard 
with hives of bees, a dozen acres or so of plow land, and a garden for 
berries and annual vegetable crops. 

There is always plenty on a farm such as this. 

In winter a fat hog hangs in the smokehouse and from the cellar come 
jellies and jams and preserves, canned fruits, and dried vegetables. In the 
summer there is a succession of fresh fruits from the orchard and fresh 
vegetables from the garden. 

There is always comfort on this farm. 

The pure air, the deep silence of the night, the healthful outdoor work, 
all make for sound and restful sleep. 

The house is tight against the wind and rain; wood fires keep it warm in 
winter, trees and vines shade it in summer. The furniture is not overstuffed, 
nor is it covered with tapestry, but it is made to be comfortable. 67 

When the local corporations were set up it was assumed, under 
advisement from the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior, that 
the local groups were not accountable to the General Accounting 
Office for expenditures and that the government was not accountable 
for any claims against the local corporations. This assumption was 
based on a past ruling in relation to the Emergency Fleet Corporation 

64 Ibid., p. 7738. * Ibid., pp. 7194, 10852-10854. 

"Ibid., pp. 7353-7354. m Ibid., p. 7081. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 119 

of World War I. The inability of the local corporations to conform to 
the complicated and time-consuming accounting procedures of regu- 
lar government agencies was recognized. On January 3, 1934, how- 
ever, President Roosevelt ruled that government corporations had to 
render their accounts to the General Accounting Office if not pro- 
vided otherwise by law. 68 On January 11, 1934, Comptroller General 
John R. McCarl ruled that a Public Works Administration housing 
corporation had to conform to standard accounting procedures and 
finally, on March 15, 1934, ruled that the local subsistence home- 
steads corporations would have to deposit their borrowed funds with 
the United States Treasurer and use standard disbursing and account- 
ing procedures. 69 This represented only the beginning of a series of 
adverse decisions by McCarl that restricted and at times almost 
blocked the work of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. An 
angered Ickes described McCarl as "not only a Republican, but . . . 
a reactionary Republican." 70 

The decision by McCarl was not merely a legal obstacle. By requir- 
ing the same accounting procedure from the local corporations as 
from government agencies, McCarl nullified one of the primary pur- 
poses of the corporate device. He also made it almost impossible to 
use the local corporations in other than an advisory capacity. This 
threatened the whole policy of decentralized administration which 
was at the foundation of Wilson's entire program. On March 19, 1934, 
Wilson reluctantly outlined a new plan of administration, which en- 
tailed complete control over the local projects by the Federal Sub- 
sistence Homesteads Corporation. The project manager was to con- 
trol each project, and accountants were to be assigned to each project. 
The local corporation would act as an advisory board, while educa- 
tional and cultural activities could be aided by local co-operation. 71 
Wilson would have liked to devise some legal method of continuing 
local control, for on the question of local planning he was most 
adamant. The legal staff of the division believed that there was no 
question that the local corporations could continue to make policy 
decisions. 72 

08 Click, "The Federal Subsistence Homesteads Program," pp. 1339-1384. 

09 McCarl to Ickes, March 15, 1934, R.G. 48, National Archives. 

70 Ickes, The Secret Diary, I, 335. 

71 Wilson to Ickes, March 19, 1934, R.G. 48, National Archives. 
73 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 47. 

120 Tomorrow a New World 

The question of local versus federal control led to the first major 
policy and administrative change in the subsistence homesteads 
program. Unfortunately for the local projects, it was not the last. 
Ickes, despite his resentment over McCarl's interferences, had long 
deplored the decentralized administration of the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads. Nor did he think highly of Wilson as an ad- 
ministrator or executive, and he disliked some of Wilson's appointees. 
In January, Ickes forbade any appointment at the local level, requir- 
ing all applications to be cleared through him. 73 By March he was 
bringing pressure on Wilson and his staff to abandon completely 
the decentralized administrative structure. By an order of May 12, 
1934, Ickes abolished all control by the local corporations and com- 
pletely federalized the subsistence homesteads program. 74 By this 
time there was a well-defined break between Ickes and the personnel 
of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, springing from a variance 
in philosophy as well as from disagreements over administrative de- 

Ickes came to Washington after long experience in political reform 
in Chicago, a large city. Wilson was a farm leader, having dealt 
with farm people most of his life. This difference in background may 
explain their basic disagreements. Ickes tried personally to supervise 
all expenditures and was constantly on the watch for graft, which, to 
him, was lurking behind every corner. He strongly believed that 
authority had to go along with responsibility if efficiency and economy 
were to be the end results. He was sincerely worried about the pos- 
sibility of competently executing the subsistence homesteads pro- 
gram when important policy decisions were being made by several 
local groups which, not having any direct financial interest in the 
projects, would certainly not make the type of decisions best designed 
for governmental economy. Ickes was a bureaucrat who, in a time 
when government spending was loosely controlled, kept his own ad- 
ministrative purse tightly locked. No scandal plagued his Public Works 
Administration, but Ickes believed that scandal threatened the Divi- 
sion of Subsistence Homesteads because of the loose way money was 
being spent. Since it was often impossible to have an accurate account 

73 Ickes to Wilson, Jan. 22, 1934, R.G. 48, National Archives. 

74 Unpublished first draft of Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, R.G. 83, 
National Archives. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 121 

of how funds were being spent at the local level, the way seemed 
open for all kinds of graft and reckless inefficiency. The only solu- 
tion was to centralize the administration and tighten the controls. 

Wilson trusted his appointees and gave them responsibility. He 
characteristically remarked that Ickes could never realize that "these 
farmers could be trusted/' 75 for Wilson's basic philosophy and his 
experience both pointed to the "good will" of most men. Perhaps 
Ickes' experience did not. In any case Wilson was sure that other 
things were more vital than economy or efficiency, although he cer- 
tainly desired these too. He believed that a subsistence homesteads 
program controlled and directed from Washington, even if efficient 
in the beginning, would not be democratic and, in the long run, 
would fail because it would involve the imposition of the foreign 
ideas and values of a far-off official upon the various and different 
values of the local area. It would mean experts from Washington, 
however honest and idealistic, making decisions that vitally affected 
the lives of other individuals who, though most concerned, had no 
responsibility in making the decisions. To Wilson the subsistence 
homesteads projects, if they were to become real communities, had 
to be wanted, planned, and managed by the people within the lo- 
cality where they were to be constructed. 76 To him, planning had to 
be democratic planning. 

Under the local corporations all had not been perfect, or demo- 
cratic. Frequently the leading citizens on local sponsoring committees 
were far removed from the circumstances and problems of the home- 
steaders, often advocating not what the homesteaders wanted but 
what they wanted for the homesteaders. The danger of charitable 
paternalism was always present. In several cases the projects were 
practically controlled by one person, who had his own set ideas on 
what a subsistence homestead should be and heeded the wishes of 
neither the homesteaders, the other local citizens, nor the officials 
of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. 77 This was particularly 
true at Dayton, Penderlea, and Jersey Homesteads. Many local cor- 
porations, working under certain assumptions about the subsistence 

75 Author's interview with M. L. Wilson on June 29, 1956. 
70 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 45. 

77 Memorandum from Frederic Howe to Rexford G. Tugwell, May 17, 1935, 
R.G. 96, National Archives. 

122 Tomorrow a New World 

homesteads program or working with an ignorance about the whole 
program, made decisions that hurt the chances of success for indi- 
vidual projects. A good example was the Birmingham projects which, 
in order to save money on the land purchases, were located much 
too far from the city. In some cases the prices paid for land were 
too high; in other cases administrative expenses were huge. Beyond 
all that, a Washington representative on each local board of directors 
was very powerful. Since all plans had to be approved at Washing- 
ton, he was often the determining factor in decisions. 78 

The one project that gave Ickes the most headaches, and the one 
that, more than any other, precipitated the arguments over federaliza- 
tion, was Arthurdale. Here the "villains" were, to Ickes, Mrs. Roose- 
velt and Louis M. Howe. Working as members of an Arthurdale 
Committee, Mrs. Roosevelt and Howe, according to Ickes, virtually 
took over the project, "spending money like drunken sailors." 79 Be- 
cause of early mistakes and because of Mrs. Roosevelt's insistence 
on expensive homes, Ickes believed that each homestead was going 
to cost $10,000 rather than the $2,500 to $3,000 originally planned. 
The adverse publicity at Arthurdale plagued Ickes, who believed 
that popular support depended on economy. 80 He tried to remedy 
the situation by personal intervention, which resulted in unpleasant 
feelings between him and Mrs. Roosevelt. Meanwhile Wilson main- 
tained a friendly relationship with Mrs. Roosevelt and appreciated 
both the humanitarian and experimental nature of her work at Arthur- 
dale. Ickes carried his problems to President Roosevelt, who appar- 
ently sympathized with Ickes' desires for economy. All these misun- 
derstandings helped make Wilson's time in the Department of the 
Interior far from pleasant. When the projects were ordered federal- 
ized, he decided to go back to the friendly environs of the Department 
of Agriculture as of June 30, 1934. Here he became Assistant Secre- 
tary and, later, Undersecretary of Agriculture. Leaving the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads with Wilson were most of his assistants 
who were of an agricultural background, including Carl C. Taylor. 

The federalization order dashed the plans and hopes of many local 
groups, leaving a legacy of bitterness at many projects. 81 Whatever 

78 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 46. 

79 Ickes, The Secret Diary, I, 207. * Ibid., p. 162. 

81 George S. Wehrwein, "Appraisal of Resettlement," Journal of Farm Eco- 
nomics, XIX (1937), 192-193. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 123 

the relative merits of decentralized or centralized control, the sudden 
shift of policy seriously prejudiced the popularity of subsistence home- 
steads. A few of the more doctrinaire project sponsors fought back. 
Borsodi, at Dayton, refused to have his project federalized and 
brought suit against the Federal Subsistence Homesteads Corpora- 
tion for breach of contract. The Division of Subsistence Homesteads 
decided to honor the loan contract with Borsodi's group, allowing 
the project to continue under local direction. On his part, Borsodi 
withdrew his suit for the money already allotted for four additional 
homestead tracts at Dayton. 82 In his arguments, Borsodi declared that 
the federalized projects would now become federal islands, without 
voting rights or state civil and criminal jurisdiction. This fear was not 
justified by the experiences of the other projects. At Dayton the twenty 
families already on the project continued to milk their goats, work 
their looms, and build their own homes, while temporarily living 
in tents and grass huts. A disgusted Borsodi went home to New 
York. 83 Meanwhile the University of Georgia began withdrawing 
from the Piedmont project, while an angered Hugh MacRae at 
Penderlea appealed to President Roosevelt for a conference to settle 
the federalization issue. Numerous sponsors, summarily dismissed 
from any actual control, felt rebuffed and did not continue their 
support of local projects. 

The federalization order left local projects more open to the criti- 
cism of newspapers. The early sentiment in local newspapers had been 
preponderantly favorable to subsistence homesteads, perhaps partly 
because they were sponsored by leading citizens. The earliest criti- 
cism, some of it very bitter, came from farm organizations and from 
labor spokesmen. The farmers could point to the apparent incon- 
sistency of production controls and, at the same time, new farming 
colonies. Although Edward O'Neal was on the Advisory Committee 
for Subsistence Homesteads, the American Farm Bureau was opposing 
any additional subsistence homesteads communities as early as De- 
cember, 1934. 84 Several critics representing the viewpoint of laborers 

82 Charles E. Pynchon to Ickes, June 25, 1934, R.G. 48, National Archives; 
Pynchon to Ebert K. Burlew, June 6, 1934, ibid. 

83 "Homesteading Comes A-Cropper in Dayton," Architectural Forum, LXI 
(1934), 142-143. 

84 American Farm Bureau Federation, "Editorial," Official News Letter, XIII 
(Dec. 18, 1934), 2-4. 

124 Tomorrow a New World 

saw subsistence homesteads as a means of "planning for permanent 
poverty," with the government providing cheap labor for industrial- 
ists. 85 Louis M. Hacker, a historian, feared that the "American Gov- 
ernment, hard driven by the contradictions of its own position, may 
even (as in Italy and Germany) seek to build up exactly such a shel- 
tered peasant group as a rural reactionary bloc to withstand the 
revolutionary demands of the organized industrial workers." 86 At- 
tacking the whole idea of subsistence homesteads, Alvin Johnson, 
an economist and director of the New School for Social Research, 
shrewdly surmised that the "worker ought to be happier, living 
in his own garden, pulling weeds with his wife and children on 
Saturday afternoons instead of going to the movies. The family ought 
to be happier, but 'ought' is an obsolete word." 87 As the construction 
phase began, another group of critics were to have their heyday. 
Those who disliked the New Deal or those who opposed any type 
of governmental planning were to make effective use of every mis- 
take at Arthurdale or elsewhere. This criticism began as early as 
August, 1934, with a Saturday Evening Post article which considerably 
embarrassed Ickes by pointing out the many foolish errors made at 
Arthurdale. 88 

In May, 1934, Ickes had moved Charles E. Pynchon from the 
Public Works Administration to the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads to be business manager of the Federal Subsistence Home- 
steads Corporation. Ickes hoped that Pynchon, a housing expert and 
businessman, would get the division on a more efficient basis. 89 
Upon the resignation of Wilson in June, Pynchon became the new 
Director, bringing with him a largely new staff and a new emphasis 
on the housing and administrative aspects of subsistence homesteads, 
although without reversing the original purposes of the program. At 
the time Pynchon took over the division, the administrative staff oc- 
cupied three floors of the Architects Building and numbered over 

85 Ware and Powell, "Planning for Permanent Poverty," p. 515. 

86 Louis M. Hacker, "Plowing the Farmer Under," Harper's Magazine, CLXIX 
(1934), 73-74. 

87 Alvin Johnson, "Homesteads and Subsistence Homesteads," Yale Review, 
XXIV (1934-1935), 439. 

^Wesley Stout, "The New Homesteaders," Saturday Evening Post, CCVII 
(Aug. 4, 1934), 5-7, 61-62, 64-65. 
89 Ickes, The Secret Diary, I, 206-207. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 125 

300 people. The total administrative expenses under Wilson had 
been only $225,655.29. As of June 30, 1934, funds had already been 
advanced to twenty-seven projects; house construction was under 
way on nine projects. The division had provided employment for 
1,851 persons in other than administrative capacities. 90 

The federalization order required a complete organizational change 
in the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. Although project plans 
submitted by local groups were still considered, a Planning Section 
was established to take the lead in initiating new projects. Under its 
direction several new projects were in the planning stage by May, 
1935, when the Division of Subsistence Homesteads was absorbed 
by the Resettlement Administration. A Construction Section was or- 
ganized to direct the projects' physical development. An Operations 
Section, which controlled the administrative problems of each local 
project, directed the all-important project managers, who had primary 
responsibility for the individual projects. Since a few projects were 
nearly completed by October, 1934, a Community Development Sec- 
tion was established to guide and direct the new communities. On 
the unfinished projects the project managers supervised the archi- 
tects, accountants, engineers, and city planners. As projects were oc- 
cupied, the project managers were replaced by community managers, 
who were assisted by farm and home supervisors, by educational ad- 
visers, and, at Arthurdale, by several additional employees, including 
a project nurse. 91 

During the last months of the existence of the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads, from June 30, 1934, to May 15, 1935, the prin- 
cipal activity was the continued construction of the communities 
initiated under M. L. Wilson. The federalization order often oc- 
casioned an extensive delay, either to revise project plans or to get 
the new administrative machinery working. Despite his high hopes 
for Pynchon, Ickes soon decided that, despite his good intentions, 
loyalty, and hard work, Pynchon was no more efficient than Wilson, 
since expenses remained much too high on the projects. To Ickes, 

90 Division of Subsistence Homesteads, Report for the End of 1934, R.G., 96, 
National Archives; Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 48. 

91 U.S. Department of the Interior, Division of Subsistence Homesteads, A Home- 
stead and a Hope ( Washington, 1935 ) , p. 13; Pynchon to All Employees, Oct. 22, 
1934, R.G. 96, National Archives; Divisional Notice no. 22, Oct. 22, 1934, ibid. 

126 Tomorrow a New World 

Pynchon seemed in a daze, unable to answer questions or grasp the 
details about the projects. 92 

By May, 1935, there were only 466 families living in subsistence 
homesteads on eleven projects. After federalization, these home- 
steaders had been selected by a special committee at Washington 
from recommendations made by local committees. Selection criteria 
included citizenship, children in the family (or a couple young 
enough to have children), physical ability to do farm work, farming 
experience, and an income under $1,200 a year. The last requirement 
was often violated in practice, with over half the homesteaders at one 
project having incomes in excess of $1,200. 93 In almost all cases the 
tendency was to select homesteaders who, both character-wise and 
financially, seemed most able to meet payments and to contribute 
to the success of the community. As the subsistence homesteads 
communities began filling with people, it was very obvious that they 
were not experiments in relief, much to the surprise of many people. 

One irksome problem confronted by the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads was that of land tenure. Since the single-tax ideas of 
Henry George, most community planners, even including the rabid 
agrarians, had desired some limitation on fee simple or unrestricted 
landownership. But just as persistently, most Americans had con- 
tinued to accept fee simple ownership as an essential part of the 
American way of life and were either unaware of, or unconcerned 
about, such possible evils as speculation, high land prices, and un- 
controlled exploitation of land resources. Even the limited restric- 
tions imposed by zoning laws had been, and still are, viewed with 
alarm and apprehension by many Americans who, with at least a 
sentimental attachment to a rural past, can hardly adjust to the 
more necessary socialization of a close-living, urbanized present. 
Thus the agricultural economists and social planners were usually at 
odds with the broader public on this important question. Because 
of the avowed experimental and demonstrational nature of the sub- 
sistence homesteads communities, most officials of the Division of 
Subsistence Homesteads felt that, despite the expressed desire of most 

92 Ickes, The Secret Diary, I, 205-207. 

93 Division of Subsistence Homesteads, A Homestead and a Hope, pp. 15-16; 
An Office Record, Division of Subsistence Homesteads, dated Feb. 11, 1935, 
R.G. 96, National Archives; Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 100, 164- 
165, 172. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 127 

homesteaders for free title to their small estates, something less than 
fee simple ownership would be necessary to assure the success of the 
experiments and also to protect the real interests of the homesteader. 
It seemed that free titles would quickly lead to speculation in both 
land and homes, especially in light of the probable increase in land 
values near the new communities. This would destroy the economic 
and aesthetic design of the communities, lead to exploitation of some 
homesteaders, and enrich other individuals who were not supposed to 
be aided by the program. Yet the homesteaders wanted the security 
and independence that they believed could come only with complete 
ownership. Moreover, Section 208 provided money for "the purchase" 
of subsistence homesteads. From earlier congressional debates it was 
evident that the members of Congress, just as much as the home- 
steaders, put a great value on landownership. 

The Division of Subsistence Homesteads solved this dilemma by 
a compromise. It announced that, in all but the stranded communi- 
ties, the homesteader would be permitted to purchase his own home 
within a thirty-year period at 3 per cent interest, without any down 
payment. But the homesteader could not receive title to his land until 
he had paid three-fourths of the purchase price and, in no case, not 
until after five years. This meant government control for anywhere 
from five to twenty- two years, yet partially appeased the proponents 
of fee simple. Actually, since no communities were completed when 
the Resettlement Administration absorbed the subsistence home- 
steads in May, 1935, all homesteaders were under temporary licens- 
ing agreement. 94 

From the beginning of subsistence homesteads, M. L. Wilson and 
others had stressed the community aspects of the program. They had 
consciously aimed at something more than a group of carefully engi- 
neered and designed rural houses located in a rather odd, city-rural 
pattern. Thus they put their greatest emphasis on the educative in- 
fluence of subsistence homesteads, desiring to develop a new com- 
munity life, with community or social attitudes to replace extreme 
individualism, with a greater emphasis on creative endeavor, such as 
handicrafts, with less social competition and more stability and se- 

94 Resettlement Administration, Division of Land Utilization, Land Use Plan- 
ning Section, "Resettlement Policy and Procedure: Suggestions," manuscript in 
R.G. 96, National Archives, p. 73. 

128 Tomorrow a New World 

curity, and, capping it all, with as many as possible of the community 
activities organized on a co-operative rather than a competitive basis. 
As some of the communities neared completion, the Community De- 
velopment Section assumed the task of converting a group of houses 
and a group of homesteaders into a community. It also had the task 
of developing an adequate economic life for the communities, which 
was a near impossibility in the stranded communities. The Community 
Development Section contained specialists in education, co-operation, 
insurance, home management, gardening, agriculture, and industry. 95 
It approved the selection of settlers, educated and supervised the 
homesteaders in their new enterprises, provided educational services 
for adults and children, directed the health and welfare services, 
guided the social and recreational activities, and supervised and as- 
sisted in the organization of co-operatives. 96 Actually this work in 
community building was barely started by the time the subsistence 
homesteads were transferred to the Resettlement Administration, since 
only eleven projects were then partially completed. For this reason 
it may be best studied, from other than the standpoint of administra- 
tive organization, along with the similar work of the Resettlement 

Federalization did not free the Division of Subsistence Homesteads 
from further legal entanglements. A ruling by the Solicitor of the 
Department of the Interior in November, 1934, stressed the fact that 
Section 208 specifically provided aid for the redistribution of popula- 
tion in industrial centers and not for resettlement of farmers. 97 This 
almost outlawed the all-rural colonies, since most of the home- 
steaders had been farmers and had not lived in industrial centers. 98 
The Solicitor also cast doubt on the legality of the stranded workers' 
communities. These rulings meant that the subsistence homesteads 
program would have to be restricted to industrial communities. In 
February, 1935, the Comptroller General challenged the legality of 
nearly all the expenditures, made approximately one year earlier, 

86 Wendell Lund to Pynchon, May 13, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

96 Pynchon to All Employees, Oct. 27, 1934, ibid. 

07 Nathan R. Margold to Ickes, Nov. 24, 1934, R.G. 48, National Archives. 

98 Wesley Stout, "The Government Builds Fifty Houses," Saturday Evening Post, 
CCVIII (April 4, 1936), 76; Bruce L. Melvin, "Emergency and Permanent Legis- 
lation with Special Reference to the History of Subsistence Homesteads," Ameri- 
can Sociological Review, I (1936), 627. 

Subsistence Homesteads Program 129 

of the local corporations, ruling that there had been no authoriza- 
tion for the formation of local corporations, no authority for advanc- 
ing funds to them, no authority for land purchased under Section 
208, and no compliance with government procedures by the local 
corporations. This apparently made new legislation imperative. On 
March 6, 1935, Representative Hampton P. Fulmer of South Carolina 
introduced in the House a more detailed subsistence homesteads bill, 
which died in committee." Then on May 7, 1935, McCarl ruled that 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, not having been extended 
by new legislation and as a temporary part of the National Industrial 
Recovery Act, would automatically go out of existence on June 16, 
1935, with all unexpended funds reverting to the Treasury. This 
meant so many uncompleted communities and unfulfilled obligations 
that some new authorization was imperative. Actually President 
Roosevelt was already formulating plans for a consolidation of sev- 
eral agencies into a new Resettlement Administration. Bruce Melvin, 
one of M. L. Wilson's earliest assistants, declared that the sub- 
sistence homesteads idea, because of a poorly written law and constant 
involvements with legal technicalities, did not fail but "was never 
tried." 10 

On May 15, 1935, fully two months before the expiration date set 
by McCarl, Roosevelt, by Executive Order 7041, transferred all the 
property and assets of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads to the 
newly created Resettlement Administration. 101 In order to complete 
the transfer, the Division of Subsistence Homesteads remained in 
existence until June 16, 1935, as a division of the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration. At the time of absorption, the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads had completed 691 houses and had begun construction 
on 1,369 homes. 102 Many projects had developed no farther than the 
original land purchase. Since the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, 
constantly plagued by legal and administrative delays, had expended 

99 C. E. Pynchon to Ickes, Feb. 22, 1935, R.G. 48, National Archives; C.R., 
74th Cong., 1st Sess., 1935, p. 3066. 

100 McCarl to Ickes, May 7, 1935, and Pynchon to Ickes, May 7, 1935, R.G. 48, 
National Archives; Melvin, "Emergency and Permanent Legislation," p. 631. 

101 Select Committee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Hearings on the 
Farm Security Administration, 78th Cong., 1st Sess., 1943-1944, pp. 966-968. 

102 Memorandum from the Division of Subsistence Homesteads to Tugwell, May 
24, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

130 Tomorrow a New World 

less than $8,000,000 of its $25,000,000 appropriation, its surplus 
funds were transferred to the Resettlement Administration for the 
brief two months before they were to revert to the Treasury. The 
executive order expressly required the Resettlement Administration to 
carry out the subsistence homesteads program in accordance with the 
original legislation. 103 This did not prevent an inevitable change in 
policies, which again affected the local communities. 

The popular back-to-the-land and subsistence homesteads pro- 
gram had been born in the depths of the depression and, despite the 
views of its administrators in the New Deal, had been motivated 
largely by the hopelessness and despair of the depression. It repre- 
sented a longing and a hope for that security that surely could be 
found at the source of life itself. Rut by 1935 the sense of despair and 
of urgency was disappearing. The powerful emotional appeal of an 
envisioned homestead, of gardens and handicrafts, was beginning to 
fade. The administration of the subsistence homesteads program had 
been carried out in the happy honeymoon period of the New Deal, 
when desperation and a sense of impending catastrophe apparently 
unified almost all groups and all classes in a truly national effort 
toward recovery. Although the enemy was not so clearly defined, or 
even well known, the period had many of the earmarks of a great 
wartime effort. Rut by 1935 the honeymoon was almost over. The 
enemies who began to emerge in the eyes or the imagination of men 
were not such as could demand the hostility of all Americans, for 
these enemies were not natural, or providential, or foreign, but hu- 
man and native. A class and group consciousness was forming. The 
New Deal, which was becoming the champion of some individuals 
and groups, was believed by others to be an enemy. Reneath all the 
bitterness that followed this, the nearest approximation of a class 
struggle in American history, there was a sharp clash of ideas, ideals, 
values, and gods, which once again, in the easily accepted presence 
of manna, became seemingly more important than manna. The sub- 
sistence homesteads, in a new administrative agency, were to be 
shaped by a new bitterness and an increased clash of values. 

103 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 968. 


The Federal Emergency Relief 
Administration Communities 

AS the subsistence homesteads program developed, it became lim- 
ited to one type of community and to the benefit of one economic 
group. Although the stranded communities, which were intended to 
aid destitute miners, were part of the original program, they were 
quickly curtailed after the first four met legal and economic difficul- 
ties. The three colonies for submarginal farmers were declared il- 
legal by the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior. The one 
type continued, the industrial communities, benefited only those peo- 
ple with an income near or over $1,200 and with the highest of 
character qualifications. A significant experimental program in land- 
use planning, in the decentralization of low-income populations, and 
in low-income housing, the subsistence homesteads program, as it 
developed, did not relieve, or profess to relieve, the immediate prob- 
lems of the mass of unemployed and stranded people, both rural and 
urban. With all the talk of subsistence homesteads and of back-to-the- 
land, it was only natural that relief agencies would attempt to adapt 
the idea of rural-urban communities to relief problems. Thus, the 
Federal Emergency Relief Administration became the second New 
Deal agency to initiate and develop communities. 

First created by the Emergency Relief Act of May 12, 1933, the 
Federal Emergency Relief Administration provided relief funds to 
the states, which distributed them through state relief organizations. 


132 Tomorrow a New World 

The organizer and director of state relief in Texas was Colonel 
Lawrence Westbrook, an engineer, agriculturalist, and politician. 
As a member of the state legislature from 1928 to 1932, he had been 
chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and had helped organize 
the Texas Cotton Co-operative Association. As Texas relief ad- 
ministrator he desired to use relief funds for permanent rehabilitation 
rather than for outright grants. Supporting him in this desire was a 
handsome, colorful Dallas architect, David Williams, who had al- 
ready contemplated rural-industrial communities for the unemployed 
of Dallas. Plans for a test community were developed in the fall of 
1933. In January, 1934, a group of former farmers, who were then 
on city relief rolls, moved into a section of pine woods about 100 
miles north of Houston and began constructing the Woodlake com- 
munity, which was designed for 100 relief families. 1 This project was 
to be a model for most of the later Federal Emergency Relief Ad- 
ministration communities. 

Woodlake was quickly constructed, with the families of the men 
moving into their new homes during the summer of 1934. The 100 
homes of three, four, or five rooms were placed on three-acre sub- 
sistence plots, each of which also included a combination barn-garage- 
laundry, an orchard, a vineyard, and a chicken house. The homes, 
of frame or log construction, were designed by David Williams, cost 
about $1,500 each, and included modern baths. They were leased to 
destitute relief clients for three years at $180 rent a year, all payable 
in farm and poultry surpluses. The whole community jointly owned 
a 225-acre park, a school, a community house, a bathhouse, a trading 
post, and two co-operative farms of 600 acres each. Each family, in 
addition to farming the three-acre subsistence plot, was expected 
to participate in handicrafts and processing industries. This project, 
administered by a separate legal entity, the Texas Rural Communities, 
Incorporated, possessed some characteristics of a European village, 
with its outlying fields, or of a Russian co-operative farm, with its 
individual subsistence plots and its collectively operated fields. 2 

1 "Rural Industrial Community Projects: Woodlake, Texas, Osceola, Arkansas, 
and Red House, West Virginia," Architectural Record, LXXVII (1935), 12. 

2 Ibid.; Resettlement Administration, Division of Land Utilization, Land Use 
Planning Section, "Resettlement Policy and Procedure: Suggestions," manuscript 
in R.G. 96, National Archives, pp. 35-36; Select Committee of the House Com- 
mittee on Agriculture, Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, 78th 
Cong., 1st Sess., 1943-1944, p. 1107. 

Relief Communities 133 

Meanwhile, in February, 1934, Harry Hopkins, Administrator of 
the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, created, by an informal 
administrative order, the Division of Rural Rehabilitation and 
Stranded Populations within the Federal Emergency Relief Adminis- 
tration and, for assistance in the formulation of a rural rehabilitation 
program, asked Lawrence Westbrook and David Williams to come 
to Washington. In March, Westbrook called a series of regional con- 
ferences of agricultural and civic leaders to discuss the problems 
of returning stranded agricultural workers to farms and of making 
special loans to those farmers who needed to replace work stock 
and equipment in order to become self-sustaining. Both Hopkins and 
Westbrook believed that most farmers who were then on relief could 
be rehabilitated and made self-sustaining for less money than was 
likely to be involved in continued relief grants. On March 22, 1934, 
Hopkins announced that all direct relief and Civil Works Administra- 
tion programs carried on in rural areas would be replaced, as of 
April 1, 1934, by a rural rehabilitation program. 3 Since it was doubt- 
ful that the Federal Emergency Relief Administration had any legal 
authority to purchase other than submarginal agricultural land or to 
build houses (two projects contemplated by Westbrook), a member 
of the legal staff worked out a plan for state rural rehabilitation cor- 
porations to handle the financial operations of rehabilitation loans and 
of community development, both under the direction and control of 
the Rural Rehabilitation Division of the Federal Emergency Relief 
Administration. 4 

Even as the rural rehabilitation program was being developed 
within the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, another com- 
plementary program was initiated partly under the auspices of the 
Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Land-use planning, as de- 
veloped by the agricultural economists, as stressed by planning 
agencies, and as developed in New York State by Franklin D. Roose- 

3 Lawrence Westbrook, "The Program of the Rural Rehabilitation Division of 
the FERA," Journal of Farm Economics, XVII (1935), 89-91; Hearings on the 
Farm Security Administration, pp. 862-863. 

* Philip M. Click, "Memorandum on Federal Governmental Agencies Involved 
in Land Acquisition, Administration, and Planning," in Record Group 69, Records 
of the Work Projects Administration and Its Predecessors (includes the Works 
Progress Administration, the Civil Works Administration, and the Federal Emer- 
gency Relief Administration), National Archives (to be cited hereafter as R.G. 
69, National Archives). 

134 Tomorrow a New World 

velt, always included a retirement program for submarginal land. 
In the New Deal a land-purchase and land-retirement program was 
first initiated by the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation in early 
1934, but was restricted to the purpose of reducing agricultural sur- 
pluses. In the spring of 1934 this land-purchase program was shifted 
to the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, where it included 
other than surplus-producing agricultural lands. In July, 1934, it was 
further broadened to include not only the purchase of such land but 
its conversion to some new use. The funds for the program were 
allotted to the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, but the 
technical direction was placed in other agencies. The Land Policy 
Section of the Division of Program Planning, Agricultural Adjustment 
Administration, directed about three-fourths of the program. The 
rest was under the National Park Service, the Bureau of Biological 
Survey, and the Office of Indian Affairs. One final problem, that of 
resettling the dislocated farmers, was placed, quite appropriately, in 
the newly formed Division of Rural Rehabilitation, under Lawrence 
Westbrook. Although very few people were resettled before the land 
program was switched to the Resettlement Administration in 1935, the 
existence of the program was further justification for the Division of 
Rural Rehabilitation and for a program of rural community building. 5 
The Rural Rehabilitation Division of the Federal Emergency Re- 
lief Administration was largely staffed with agricultural personnel. 
It maintained close contact with the Department of Agriculture, the 
Agricultural Adjustment Administration, and the Farm Credit Ad- 
ministration. Its operations were entirely in the hands of the rural 
rehabilitation corporations, which existed in twenty-one states by 
November, 1934, and in forty-five states by June, 1935. All stock of 
the local corporation was deposited with the Federal Relief Ad- 
ministrator, thus insuring federal control. On the Board of Directors 
of each state corporation was a regional representative of the Federal 
Emergency Relief Administration, the state administrator of relief, 
the director of the State Extension Service, a representative of the 
Land Policy Section of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, 

5 Lewis C. Gray, "The Social and Economic Implications of the National Land 
Program," Journal of Farm Economics, XVIII (1936), 261-263; Resettlement Ad- 
ministration, Interim Report (Washington, 1936), p. 6; Franklin D. Roosevelt, 
The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, IV (New York, 1938), 

Relief Communities 135 

and three outstanding citizens. 6 The similarities between this organi- 
zation and the original one set up by M. L. Wilson in the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads are very obvious. The significant differ- 
ence is that the rural rehabilitation corporations did not face almost 
insurmountable legal obstacles under the Federal Emergency Relief 
Act, which specified a form of decentralized administration. 

Although each state corporation was supposed to formulate its own 
rehabilitation program, both Lawrence Westbrook and David Wil- 
liams, in light of their work at Woodlake, influenced the corporations 
to use part of their funds in the construction of rural-industrial 
communities. Westbrook believed that the gravest relief problems 
involved the stranded workers, rural or urban, who had no prospect 
for employment at their present locations. Relief grants should not 
have to continue indefinitely. Why could not these workers be re- 
habilitated and resettled in organized rural communities, which they 
themselves could build and then purchase, repaying the government 
for its investment? Although these communities would be somewhat 
experimental, there were already several examples of farm villages 
in the United States. In spite of the fact that they would be more 
aesthetic in design and better located and would depend more on 
community enterprises, these new rural-industrial communities would 
not be materially different from older farm villages. They would not 
be "crack-pot economic or social panaceas" 7 and would provide 
guidance to the back-to-the-land movement. Westbrook hoped to see 
developed from 100 to 150 of these communities, with up to 1,000 
families in each community. 8 

The program of the Rural Rehabilitation Division of the Federal 
Emergency Relief Administration differed considerably from that of 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. First, and most important, 
the rural-industrial communities were only a small part of the total 
program of the state corporations, although a part much beloved 
by Westbrook. In many states no communities were even planned. 
Most of the relief funds of the corporations were lent to individual 
farmers (a total of about $50,000,000 to 398,000 farmers by June, 

6 Westbrook, "The Program of the Rural Rehabilitation Division," pp. 92-93. 

7 Ibid., pp. 95-100. 

8 Lawrence Westbrook, "Rural-Industrial Communities for Stranded Families," 
R.G. 69, National Archives, pp. 4-9. 

136 Tomorrow a New World 

1935 9 ) , enabling them to purchase livestock, equipment, or even sub- 
sistence. A second difference was that all rural rehabilitation com- 
munities were planned for relief clients. As such they resemble only 
the four stranded communities of the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads. The rural-industrial communities were usually constructed 
with much greater speed and economy than the subsistence home- 
steads, perhaps because of the corporate device which allowed local 
control and little red tape. As conceived by Westbrook and Williams, 
the rural-industrial communities were to have a dual economic base 
there were to be co-operative farms and co-operative village indus- 
tries, related either to crafts or to the processing of specialized farm 
products. This contrasts with the industrial decentralization desired 
by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. The dependence upon 
processing industries or upon highly specialized types of agriculture 
led to small farm plots or to very small co-operative farms in rela- 
tion to the number of homesteaders. When the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration absorbed the communities, the farm units were usually 
consolidated to create an adequate agricultural base, and the rural 
industries were often dropped. Thus, the Resettlement Administration 
could attribute all later economic difficulties in these communities to 
poor early planning. On the other hand, the community architects 
of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, like David Wil- 
liams, were just as certain that the communities failed because their 
original plans had been betrayed by unsympathetic agriculturalists 
in the Resettlement Administration. 

One of the first rural-industrial communities, and the only one 
of its type, was a community at Red House, West Virginia, for 
stranded coal miners. Red House was very similar to the subsistence 
homesteads communities of Arthurdale and Tygart Valley. It too was 
planned in the expectation of industrial decentralization a hope 
as vain at Red House as at Arthurdale. On 600 developed acres of a 
2,013-acre tract, 150 cinder-block homes were constructed on plots 
of from three-fourths of an acre to one acre, beginning in September, 
1934. The cinder blocks were made at a cost of ten cents each in a 
temporary plant; the lumber was fabricated in a local shop. As in 
almost all Federal Emergency Relief Administration communities, 
most of the work was done by the prospective settlers. The sturdy 

9 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 864. 

Relief Communities 137 

homes included three to five rooms, cellars, baths, porches, and large 
attics. Each homestead had a barn and a chicken pen. Unique among 
all New Deal communities, Red House had a gas well which supplied 
the fuel for the homes. As was true of almost all Federal Emergency 
Relief Administration communities, Red House had a general, co- 
operative farm. 10 

Three of the most publicized and, in the end, the most unsuccessful 
of the rural-industrial communities occupy an administrative history 
separate from all the other New Deal communities. Those three the 
Dyess Colony, near Wilson, Arkansas; Pine Mountain Valley, about 
thirty miles from Columbus, Georgia; and Cherry Lake Farms, near 
Madison, Florida were not turned over to the Resettlement Admin- 
istration in 1935. Except for the Resettlement Administration's super- 
vision of certain aspects of community management, such as settler 
selection, education, and special services, those communities became 
a part of the Works Progress Administration, therefore remaining in 
the hands of Hopkins and Westbrook. Not until 1939, long after all 
construction had been completed, were they turned over to the Farm 
Security Administration, the successor to the Resettlement Administra- 
tion. Matanuska, Alaska, perhaps the most fascinating relief colony, 
was never turned over to the Farm Security Administration and will 
not be included in this study. 11 

The Dyess community, the largest farm colony ever developed by 
a public agency in the United States, was initiated in 1934 by the 
Arkansas Rural Rehabilitation Corporation. In the delta country, sixty 
miles from Memphis, Dyess contained 17,500 acres of rich but gummy 
cotton land which, according to original plans, was to be subdivided 
into 750 small, one-mule farms of approximately twenty acres each. 
Construction of roads and buildings began in 1934 and continued at a 
rapid pace, with 1,500 relief laborers at work at one time. By October, 
1934, eighty-three houses were ready for occupancy. By June, 1936, 
approximately 500 homes were completed. No more were started, for, 
by then, it had been decided that the farm units were too small and 

10 William N. Beehler, Relief Work and Rehabilitation: A Report of the West 
Virginia Relief Administration (Charleston, 1934), pp. 69-70; "Rural Industrial 
Community Projects: Woodlake, Texas, Osceola, Arkansas, and Red House, West 
Virginia," pp. 14-15; Rural Rehabilitation, I (Nov. 15, 1934), mimeographed, 
R.G. 69, National Archives. 

11 Carl C. Taylor to Fred Bartlett, July 6, 1933, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

138 Tomorrow a New World 

should be consolidated. The homes were three- to five-room cottages 
of rather poor quality. The lumber was cut and sawed on the project, 
leading to a low unit cost. The houses were, for the most part, located 
on the individual farms, with four houses grouped at the angles of 
each crossroads in order to promote neighborliness. A central com- 
munity center, fully five miles from some of the outlying farms, 
comprised 100 acres of land, thirty-two subsistence homes, a large ad- 
ministration building, several warehouses, a large mule barn, a 
theater building, a twenty-two-bed hospital, a twelve-year school for 
about 1,600 pupils, a seed house, a cotton gin, and a store. Subsidiary 
community centers developed around eight scattered Sunday schools 
and nine home demonstration clubs. 12 

After the completion of construction in 1936, the Dyess Colony, a 
$2,000,000 all-white, all-Protestant project, was operated by a local 
corporation under Works Progress Administration direction until it 
was turned over to the Farm Security Administration in 1939. Dur- 
ing this time the colony was a financial failure. The twenty-acre units 
were much too small, leading to a consolidation of units and a re- 
duction to approximately 300 homesteads. The local corporation, which 
operated several co-operatives, lost over $750,000 from 1937 to 1939. 
It operated a store, cafe, warehouse, craft shop, hospital, garage, 
cotton gin, blacksmith shop, printing press, shoeshop, and harness 
shop. This sorry financial record and a series of quarrels on the 
project led to a threatened investigation by the State of Arkansas in 
1939. Dyess was hardly a welcome addition to the communities of the 
Farm Security Administration in 1939. 13 

One of the most idealistically planned colonies of the Federal 
Emergency Relief Administration was Pine Mountain Valley, near 
Pine Mountain, Harris County, Georgia. Planned and designed by 
David Williams and adjoining Franklin D. Roosevelt's Warm Springs, 

2 "Preliminary Report on Community Development at Dyess Colony, Arkansas," 
a study directed by Dr. Charles P. Loomis, submitted on Aug. 1, 1936, R.G. 96, 
National Archives; Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 1667-1669; 
"Rural Industrial Community Projects: Woodlake, Texas, Osceola, Arkansas, and 
Red House, West Virginia," p. 13; a notation dated Dec. 11, 1936, R.G. 16, 
National Archives; Lawrence Westbrook to David Lilienthal, Sept. 4, 1934, R.G. 
69, National Archives. 

"Audit Report on Dyess Colony, March 22, 1939, R.G. 69, National Archives; 
Floyd Sharp to Lawrence Westbrook, Feb. 25, 1939, ibid. 

Relief Communities 13d 

it was probably the most publicized of the Federal Emergency Re- 
lief Administration communities. Pine Mountain Valley, which was 
officially developed by the Georgia Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, 
was advertised as being "based on a new idea in planning in which 
the farm and the city are so amalgamated as to be one inseparable 
whole." 14 It was planned for some 500 former farm families on relief 
in Atlanta and other Georgia cities. At Pine Mountain Valley they 
were to thrive on specialized agriculture, such as the cultivation of 
scuppernong grapes, on small agricultural industries, such as can- 
neries and hatcheries, and on manual arts and household crafts. It 
was to be an educational and demonstrational colony, having all the 
advantages of the city, with five community centers and a central 
water, telephone, and electrical system. 15 For the construction of this 
dream the Federal Emergency Relief Administration allotted $2,207,- 
572. For demonstration purposes 12,651 acres of broken and exhausted, 
but basically fertile, land was purchased in a formerly prosperous 
valley of north central Georgia. The land was divided into 300 instead 
of the contemplated 500 homestead units. The community contained 
homes, outbuildings, a water system, a school center, seven barracks 
buildings, a store and warehouse, an electric power system, several 
storage barns, an office and administration building, an auditorium, 
a large canning plant, a dairy, an egg freezing plant, a hatchery, a 
sawmill, a vineyard, a telephone system, and a church. 16 No more 
complete community could be imagined. Pine Mountain Valley was 
a favorite project of Franklin Roosevelt, who honored the community 
with a speech on December 2, 1935. 17 

Pine Mountain had as unfortunate an existence as did Dyess. Like 
Dyess, it was operated by a locally organized community corpora- 
tion under Works Progress Administration direction from 1936 to 
1939. Dissension resulted in the eviction of twenty-eight families in 
1936, 18 and economic problems were never solved. A large number 
of the units at Pine Mountain Valley were only subsistence homesteads 
of one to five acres, since several village industries had been planned. 

14 "Pine Mountain Valley, a Rural Industrial Community," n.d., ibid. 

16 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 1693-1694. 

17 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 3, 1935. 

18 Atlanta Georgian, Aug. 21, 1936. 

140 Tomorrow a New World 

Few of the farm units, ranging from ten to forty acres, were large 
enough to assure economic independence apart from the processing 
industries. Thus, as at Dyess, several consolidations were made, reduc- 
ing the number of units to 205 and leaving several surplus houses. The 
local corporation financed many of the farmers, losing a good propor- 
tion of the loans. The largest enterprise, the cannery, proved mod- 
erately successful, but depreciated in value. By 1943 the estimated 
value of Pine Mountain Valley was only approximately $1,000,000. 19 

Cherry Lake Farms in northern Florida was very similar to Pine 
Mountain Valley. With nearly $2,000,000 in relief funds, the Florida 
Rural Rehabilitation Corporation acquired 12,420 acres of sandy, 
nonproductive soil on which it planned to establish 500 small, ten- 
acre, specialized farms. Poultry and eggs, gourds, scuppernong grapes, 
and exotic show birds for zoos were considered possible sources of 
income. The project was planned for relief clients in Tampa, Miami, 
and Jacksonville. About one-half of the 132 completed units (as of 
1943) were subsistence homesteads with four- or five-room cottages 
containing modern conveniences. A central water system was estab- 
lished for the subsistence units, which were close enough together 
to have common facilities. A huge administrative building dominated 
the community center. A co-operative association, with compulsory 
membership, operated a poultry farm, a store, and a gristmill. A 
separate handicraft co-operative completed the local industries. With 
poor land and few industries, Cherry Lake had little rehabilitation 
possibilities, although it was well placed for a winter resort. When the 
Farm Security Administration took over in 1939 the local corporation 
was practically bankrupt. 20 

Approximately twenty-two other communities, of less size or less 
importance, were initiated by the Federal Emergency Relief Ad- 
ministration. In some cases the planning had only begun in 1935, 
leaving all the development and much of the determination of policy 
to the Resettlement Administration. Resides these community projects, 
the local corporations also developed several resettlement projects 
which involved widely scattered individual farms rather than rural 
communities. In California the Federal Emergency Relief Administra- 
tion established migratory camps for farm laborers, which was an- 

19 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 1694-1700. 

20 M. D. Burrows to Leroy Peterson, Oct. 29, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives; 
Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 1663-1664. 

Relief Communities 141 

other responsibility turned over to the Resettlement Administration 
in 1935. 

The Federal Emergency Relief Administration initiated ten all-rural 
farming colonies in the South, nine very small (as low as ten units 
each) farm communities in Nebraska and South Dakota, two small 
industrial-type communities in Minnesota and North Dakota, a farm 
colony in New Mexico for farmers displaced from submarginal lands, 
and a subsistence homestead community near Phoenix, Arizona (see 
the Appendix for a complete list of Federal Emergency Relief Ad- 
ministration communities). Almost all of these communities were 
actually constructed by the Resettlement Administration. The largest 
communities were initiated by the North Carolina Rehabilitation Cor- 
poration, which refused to surrender its assets to the Resettlement 
Administration in 1935. One project, Roanoke Farms, contained 294 
units separated into two communities, one for the white people and 
one for the Negroes. In addition to these communities, the Wisconsin 
Rural Rehabilitation Corporation planned several homesteads for the 
aged, handicapped, and retired, but completed only nine homes on 
eight scattered plots of ground. 21 

The planning of rural-industrial communities was carried out by 
the state corporations, but always with the approval of the Federal 
Emergency Relief Administration. As in most of the subsistence home- 
steads communities, the site surveys were made by the state agricul- 
tural colleges and the land appraisals were made by the Federal 
Land Bank. The construction was usually carried out by the prospec- 
tive colonists; in all cases it was done by relief labor. The houses, in 
those instances where the construction was completed by state cor- 
porations, were often smaller and less expensive than those constructed 
by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. Several projects included 
some three-room homes. The selection of settlers was assigned to 
the social service divisions of the state relief agencies, with varying 
standards for different states and different projects. The settler was 
almost always from the relief rolls and had to express a desire for 
rural life. 22 Since only two projects, Woodlake and Red House, were 

^Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 1037-1116. 

22 John B. Holt, An Analysis of Methods and Criteria Used in Selecting Families 
for Colonization Projects (Social Research Report no. 1, U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, Farm Security Administration and the Bureau of Agricultural Eco- 
nomics; Washington, 1937), pp. 39-44. 

142 Tomorrow a New World 

completed by June, 1935, most of the settlers were actually selected 
by the Resettlement Administration. The communities were, first of all, 
planned to serve a rehabilitation function, but, if rehabilitation oc- 
curred, they were to be sold to the settlers. Westbrook suggested a 
trial lease of one year and then sale at 3 per cent interest and twenty- 
year terms. The state corporations were to provide for the social, 
economic, recreational, and educational needs of the communities. 23 

By early 1935 a reorganization of the agencies administering the 
relief and land programs of the New Deal was being considered by 
Roosevelt and many of his advisers. As the unprecedented Emergency 
Relief Act of 1935, which provided an appropriation of $4,880,000,000, 
wended its way through Congress, the great concern of Ickes, Hop- 
kins, and even Tugwell was how the President would use the funds 
and through what agencies. Some reorganization was almost certain 
because of the confused and overlapping administrative organization 
of the land program. The purchase of submarginal land was carried 
out by Federal Emergency Relief funds, but was administered by 
personnel from four other agencies. In addition, research for the 
program was directed by another agency, the National Resources 
Board. Good farm lands were being purchased by both the Rural 
Rehabilitation Division and the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. 
All this led to endless confusion. 24 

Since both the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads were constructing communities 
and since the subsistence homesteads, particularly Arthurdale, were 
a constant embarrassment to Ickes, Roosevelt had considered turning 
the subsistence homesteads program over to Hopkins as early as 
November, 1934. Ickes had tried to make a deal with the Department 
of Agriculture, by which he would turn over to Wallace his reclama- 
tion, erosion control, and subsistence homesteads programs for the 
Department of Agriculture's Bureaus of Roads, Forestry, and Biological 
Survey. By this swap Ickes hoped to be rid of subsistence homesteads 
and to have all the conservation activities. He then hoped to lure 
Tugwell from the Department of Agriculture and create for him the 

23 Westbrook, "Rural-Industrial Communities," R.G. 69, National Archives, pp. 
11, 19. 

24 Gray, "The Social and Economic Implications of the National Land Program," 
p. 263. 

Relief Communities 143 

office of Undersecretary of the Interior, from which he could direct a 
co-ordinated conservation program. After Wallace declined the ex- 
change of agencies and after Hopkins declined to accept the sub- 
sistence homesteads, Roosevelt, in February, 1935, considered placing 
all the community activities in a new, independent agency. When, in 
March, Ickes talked to Roosevelt about combining all the community 
building in one agency under his Assistant Secretary, Oscar Chap- 
man, Roosevelt surprised him by announcing that Tugwell wanted to 
administer the subsistence homesteads program. 25 

On April 30, 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt, by an executive order and 
under the very broad authority granted in the Emergency Relief 
Act of 1935, established the Resettlement Administration under Rex- 
ford G. Tugwell, who was also to retain his position as Undersecretary 
of Agriculture. The original functions of the Resettlement Administra- 
tion, as detailed in the executive order, included the "resettlement 
of destitute or low-income families from rural and urban areas, includ- 
ing the establishment, maintenance, and operation, in such connection, 
of communities in rural and suburban areas." 26 It also provided that 
the Resettlement Administration continue the whole, confused sub- 
marginal land program, although with an emphasis on the develop- 
mental aspect of the acquired land (on reforestation, erosion control, 
flood control, and recreational development), since the relief act pro- 
vided for work relief and not for a new land program. As later 
amended, this authority for land development included "any other 
useful projects," giving Tugwell almost unlimited authority in select- 
ing projects. A third function given the Resettlement Administration 
was the rural rehabilitation program. The executive order granted 
the power to purchase land, to use eminent domain, to improve and 
develop land, and to sell or lease, with or without the privilege of 
purchasing, any land so held. 27 

On April 30 Roosevelt transferred the land program of the Federal 
Emergency Relief Administration to the Resettlement Administration. 
On May 15 he transferred the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. 
The Land Policy Section of the Agricultural Adjustment Administra- 

25 Harold L. Ickes, The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes, vol. I: The First Thou- 
sand Days, 1933-1936 (New York, 1953), pp. 227, 250, 288, 309-310. 

26 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 966. 

27 Ibid., pp. 966-967. 

144 Tomorrow a New World 

tion was moved to the Resettlement Administration on June 1, furnish- 
ing many of the personnel for a continued submarginal program. On 
June 30 the Rural Rehabilitation Division of the Federal Emergency 
Relief Administration, including the state corporations and the com- 
munities, was given to Tugwell. Although Tugwell wished to con- 
tinue the state corporations as an administrative device, the Comp- 
troller General ruled that the Resettlement Administration funds could 
not be granted to local corporations. Under an agreement worked out 
between the Resettlement Administration and most of the state cor- 
porations, thirty-seven states turned their funds over to the Resettlement 
Administration in 1935, with a provision that they be expended within 
the state that relinquished them. Eight state corporations refused to 
turn over their funds at that time, but later, cut off from all sources of 
federal support, the corporations either had to sign the agreement or 
become virtually defunct. 28 For a while, in those few states, a duplica- 
tion of effort occurred, with both the Resettlement Administration and 
the state corporations administering a rehabilitation and a resettle- 
ment program. 

From the Federal Emergency Relief Administration the Resettlement 
Administration inherited plans for approximately twenty-five com- 
munities, only two of which were totally completed. These twenty-five 
communities, when completed, were to contain approximately 1,814 
family units. This compared with thirty-four subsistence homesteads 
communities containing, when completed, 3,304 family units. But it 
must be remembered that the three largest, if most unsuccessful, 
Federal Emergency Relief communities were retained by the Works 
Progress Administration. It is difficult to give an exact number of 
units for these three, since each of them went through periods of con- 
solidation, but at one time they included over 1,000 units. These 
Federal Emergency Relief Administration communities were almost 
entirely rural farming or semifarming communities, with the most 
notable problem being a lack of ample acreage to assure economic 
success. Since the Division of Subsistence Homesteads had initiated 
three all-rural, all-farming communities, the Federal Emergency Relief 
Administration contributed no new type of community. Although co- 

28 Henry Wallace to Louis Brownlow, Feb. 3, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives; 
Memorandum from the Farm Security Administration to M. L. Wilson, Nov. 19, 
1937, ibid. 

Relief Communities 145 

operative farms had been planned at a few subsistence homesteads 
communities, such as Westmoreland and Hightstown, the Federal 
Emergency Relief Administration was most notable for its combination 
of village subsistence plots with large co-operative farms. 

Despite the accomplishments of the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in community 
building over a two-year period, the Resettlement Administration in- 
herited the task of doing more than half of the construction work on 
these communities, of selecting a majority of the settlers, of doing 
almost all the very important managerial work within the completed 
communities, and of selling or otherwise disposing of each community. 
In addition, the Resettlement Administration had the clearest mandate 
yet given for the initiation of new communities. In mid-1935 it seemed 
as if the community-building program of the New Deal had only begun. 


America Resettled 

IN the first year and a half of the Resettlement Administration the 
community-building program of the New Deal reached its climax. A 
large administrative organization was developed, policies were de- 
termined, and an ambitious program was launched. On the other hand, 
planned communities became more controversial and more unpopular 
than ever before. By the beginning of 1937 the whole program was 
stabilized and ready to begin a long period of completion and liquida- 
tion. In the minds of most people the term "Resettlement Administra- 
tion" was almost synonymous with the name of its first Administrator, 
Rexford G. Tugwell. Already one of the most controversial major figures 
in the New Deal, Tugwell himself, as head of the Resettlement Adminis- 
tration, insured that its program would also be an object of much 
attack and abuse. Although no more to blame for every mistake or error 
made by the Resettlement Administration than he was responsible for 
its every acknowledged accomplishment, Tugwell did do far more 
than anyone else to determine the policies and program of the Resettle- 
ment Administration. His early direction gave the Resettlement Admin- 
istration and its successor, the Farm Security Administration, an orienta- 
tion that was to remain virtually unchanged until 1943, even though 
Tugwell left it in December, 1936. 

As a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, Tugwell wrote a 
poem in which he concluded: 


America Resettled 147 

I am sick of a nation's stenches 

I am sick of propertied czars . . 

I shall roll up my sleeves make America over! x 

He later may have regretted the writing of it, for it was one of many 
of his past writings that were used during the New Deal to show what 
a radical he was. An anti-Tug well Club was formed in Chicago. News- 
papers warned parents not to let children get hold of his books. By 
writing authoritative articles on wine drinking he roused the ire of 
many American churches. At one and the same time he was labeled a 
dangerous Red and an impractical, utterly ineffective professor. He 
could not be both, and actually was neither. 2 But he was different 
from the past run of Washington bureaucrats. To many he seemed to 
typify the young liberals, a completely new crop of "eager-faced, im- 
mature technicians and academicians with lean bodies and no bellies, 
running around hatless, acting rather breathlessly mysterious and im- 
portant." 3 Only his colleagues knew the real Tugwell, for the news- 
papers painted a distorted view, a view which his friends recognized 
as "one of the most bewildering examples of a deliberately rigged and 
distorted public opinion in our time." 4 

Tugwell was a social scientist with the temperament of an extremely 
sensitive artist. Experience spoke to him in such loud tones that its 
lessons were overamplified, in fact were often overwhelming. World 
War I left him ill. The depression roused in him anger and hate and 
bitterness, as well as hope. Later the atomic bomb overwhelmed him 
with despair. Though an economist, with a matured economic phi- 
losophy, Tugwell was the eternal reformer, moved to action and even 
to martyrdom by his own overwhelming sensitivity and antipathy to 
injustice, to inhumanity, to sin. His world was peopled with devils, al- 
though his economic philosophy and his scientific training persuaded 
him to give them a very modern and very naturalistic identity. His 
attack upon them was not timid; neither was it superficial or moralistic. 
In another age it might have been moralistic, but his modern tools were 
different from those of his long-past kindred. Of Thomas Hardy, his 
favorite writer, Tugwell said: "But for all his large defeatist principles, 

1 Russell Lord, The Wallaces of Iowa (Boston, 1947), p. 349. 

2 Ibid., p. 347; Russell Lord, "Governor Rex, a Tough Poet," Land, II ( 1942- 
1943), 102. 

8 Lord, Wallaces of Iowa, p. 352. 4 Ibid., p. 459. 

148 Tomorrow a New World 

he lived as though he were important, as though it always mattered 
what he did." 5 At another time he said: "There is something wrong 
with any man who does not spend parts of his life serving far and 
fundamental causes. That is the best contribution he can afford to the 
immortality of his culture." 6 

Tugwell's world was peopled with heroes as well as with devils. A 
few men had seen through the superficiality of modern society, through 
the thin crust of orthodoxy and dogma which concealed injustice and 
exploitation. One of these men had been a kindred spirit, Thorstein 
Veblen; another, his teacher, Simon Patten, or "My Patten." 7 Another 
type of hero was his "Boss," Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was everything 
Tugwell was not. Extroverted, jovial, optimistic, supremely confident, 
Roosevelt moved and acted with sureness and with a sense of moving 
with tradition and with history. 8 Tugwell, the introverted intellectual, 
could only worship or envy Roosevelt, even while looking deeply 
within himself and at the world and finding no real surety and no real 
security. When he carefully weighed tradition he found it badly want- 
ing. The American political and economic tradition was rooted in a 
far past, in rural values, in individualism and independence, in small, 
negative governments, in free enterprise, and in the political philosophy 
of Jefferson. All this needed to be replaced by collectivistic ideas, by 
urban values, by ideas suited to proletarian aspirations rather than to 
the ideas of either large or small property holders. 9 More than that, 
some of the puritanism and provincialism of Americans had to be re- 
placed by a degree of sophistication. An admirer of European culture, 
Tugwell, dapper and urbane always, wanted Americans to develop a 
few social graces, an appreciation of the arts, and an enjoyment of fine 
food and wine. 

There was little compromise in Tugwell, little readiness to accept 
the good will of all men, for, to him, all men did not possess good will. 

5 From Tugwell's "Meditations in Stinsford Churchyard," as quoted in Lord, 
Wallaces of Iowa, p. 351. 

6 Quoted by Russell Lord in "The Education of a Farm Reporter," Land, III 
(1943-1944), 219. 

7 Rexford G. Tugwell, A Chronicle of Jeopardy, 1945-55 (Chicago, 1955), 
p. 38. 

8 Rexford G. Tugwell, The Stricken Land: The Story of Puerto Rico (New 
York, 1947), p. ix. 

"Rexford G. Tugwell, "The Sources of New Deal Reformism," Ethics, LXIV 
(1954), 251. 

America Resettled 149 

He despised accommodation with evil. He was scrupulously honest 
and alarmingly frank. Most of Tugwell's unpopularity sprang from his 
inability or unwillingness to conceal revolutionary ideas in traditional 
terminology. He desired collectivism and called it by that name. Be- 
lieving that science had made possible a new world of plenty, he 
believed it the duty of social scientists to forge the new social institu- 
tions for the realization by all of the value of a surplus economy. The 
social scientists had failed in this noble task. They had not pushed for 
fundamental reforms, had lacked courage, and had worked in a confined 
orthodoxy. A few critics and dissenters had been labeled fanatics and 
crushed even as the early Christian martyrs. As a result they too had 
failed and "the apex of the capitalist structure glittered on a broad 
base of dirty factories, ravaged land, and miserable slums; but even the 
poorest faces were turned adoringly to its light." 10 

Impeding adjustment to change, blocking a world of beauty and 
plenty, Tugwell held, was a hard crust of dogmatized institutions and 
ideas. Tugwell wanted to break the crust, to stir up fruitful thought, 
and, at least temporarily, to prevent a new crust from forming. He 
believed the depression might be justified if it helped to do just this. 
To him the most iniquitous institution was uncontrolled capitalism or, 
related to it, free enterprise, laissez-faire theories, competition, or, in 
his terms, any system that permitted the "ganging up" of the un- 
scrupulous few against the many, any system that invited struggle 
rather than co-operation, divisiveness rather than unity, bitterness 
rather than tolerance. The institution of capitalism, well justified in 
the propaganda put out by interest groups, complemented in the 
political realm by negative governments, and perpetuated because of 
an antiquated worship of individualism, permitted the exploitation of 
both human and physical resources. The depression, Tugwell believed, 
was caused by an inequity in income distribution, leading to a lowered 
purchasing power on the part of too many people. There was too much 
scarcity in the midst of surpluses, all of which pointed to the necessity 
of institutional changes. 

Tugwell discovered a key to reform within the very fortifications of 
his greatest enemy, business. Because of scientific business management, 
industry had developed toward more co-operation, concentration, and 
efficiency and toward ever less competition, all of which was good 

10 Tugwell, A Chronicle of Jeopardy, p. 38. 

150 Tomorrow a New World 

according to Tugwell. But since competition and democracy had long 
been believed to be Siamese twins, the trend in industry had been 
forced underground by misguided, rural-minded reformers who pressed 
for a return to more competition, less efficiency, and more struggle. 
The trend toward concentration had continued anyway, clandestinely 
at times, and the result was large noncompetitive organizations in no 
way under the control of public interest. The lesson of business now 
had to be applied to government and the whole economy. The final 
consolidation had to occur and the oppressive possibilities of business- 
operated industries had to be eliminated by the public control of 
industry. After all, stressed Tugwell, modern business operations were 
just as much clothed with public interest as were other functions 
traditionally reserved to government. The identity of industry and 
government must be recognized as a beginning to reform. He said: 
"When industry is government and government is industry, the dual 
conflict in our modern institutions will be abated." n 

Tugwell desired an organic society, with a unity of purpose, with a 
co-operative and collective economy, and with a purposeful, functioning 
government. On the part of the people this would require a willingness 
to make some sacrifices, for a collective society would mean a publicly 
controlled economy, whether through nationalization or strict regula- 
tion of industry. It had been most nearly approached in wartime, when 
many controls were instituted by the government. It would mean 
a larger degree of regimentation, a necessity for discipline, an end to 
individualism as an economic concept, and the cessation of speculation. 
But it also could mean no violent contrasts in income and well-being, 
no irrational allotment of individual liberty, no unconsidered exploita- 
tion of human resources. 12 It would entail a tremendous growth of 
government and governmental functions, with an end to checks and 
balances and the spasmodic legislative process. A strong executive 
would have to possess a large amount of delegated power. At the heart 
of government would be the social scientists, the experts, the planners, 
who would determine the future needs and possibilities of society and 
who would lay out the roads of progress. More than anything else, 
Tugwell was a planner. He saw in a planned economy the "eventual 

11 Rexford G. Tugwell, "The Principle of Planning and the Institution of Laissez 
Faire," American Economic Review, Supplement no. 1 to vol. XXII ( 1932), 85-86. 
Ibid., p. 76. 

America Resettled 151 

possibility of a rewarded honesty for every man which so few have 

1 o 

now. 3 

Tugwell did not expect ideality to be just around the corner. He 
knew that planning implied a revolution, with new attitudes, new 
disciplines, revised legal structures, unaccustomed limitations on free- 
dom, and an end of completely private business. It would, if under- 
stood, be wanted by most people, but bitterly hated by others. It would 
involve laying a rough hand on "sacred precedent," which Tugwell 
rather enjoyed doing. There would be no more profit motive. The 
privileged groups in society would use their whole power to resist the 
change, relying on all the traditional gods to win a majority to their 
side. Not only would business fight, but even the legislators who sup- 
posedly represented the public interest. The depression aroused Tug- 
well's hopes that the "interests" had been so discredited that, in the 
New Deal, an "organic nation, part linked intelligently with part, ad- 
vancing to the fullest extent of its capacities, might be realized." 14 
But his hopes were thwarted. It seemed to him that special interests, 
which depended on divisiveness, prevailed. Tugwell had envisioned a 
revolution if reform did not come, yet had hardly dared hope that 
certain groups would ever voluntarily or even peacefully permit the 
reforms so badly needed. 15 

In many ways Tugwell was a tragic figure, out of touch with the 
less intellectualized majority of mankind. He was a savior without a 
flock, constantly frustrated when most people failed to respond to his 
ideas. Reform was so slow, yet to Tugwell so urgent. Despite the 
message of deliverance he proclaimed, "stupid" Americans continued to 
rejoice in their old gods, in individualism and independence, refusing 
to welcome or even rationally consider collectivism. They continued 
to heed the "interests," the predators, the devils, that Tugwell identified 
for them. Few other intellectuals spoke out as fervently and as honestly 
as did Tugwell, and this made him despair. At times he relapsed into 
complete bitterness or questioned the whole democratic process. To 
him the problems were so apparent, yet he was rejected by everyone 
but a few liberals. Reason ought to direct the integration of society, 
yet it had not. Technology might prove an irresponsible and destructive 

13 Ibid., pp. 85-86 fn. 

14 Tugwell, "The Sources of New Deal Reformism," p. 269. 

15 Tugwell, "The Principles of Planning," p. 92. 

152 Tomorrow a New World 

monster if left in the hands of capitalist adventurers. With the advent of 
the atomic bomb in 1945, a somewhat mellowed Tugwell saw once 
again the absolute necessity of an integrated, socially controlled society. 
The whole range of his idealism and disillusionment appear in the 
following remark about the advent of the atomic age: 

We now had, at once, to acknowledge that individualism, competition, 
private initiative, and production only for profit were as destructive as 
tigers loose in a circus crowd. We could only live on in our world if we 
collectivized, cooperated, produced for use, shared with one another. But, 
if we conformed to these necessities, we could live as only kings, potentates, 
and American millionaires have heretofore dared to think of living. We had, 
in other words, a choice between untold luxury for everyone and the total 
destruction of everything. And damned if I didn't half-believe that we 
would choose destruction! For I was very sore and cynical about American 
intellectuals and academicians. They had never accepted Patten, and every- 
one since who had attempted his approach had been ignored. 16 

Tugwell was somewhat of a misfit in the Department of Agriculture, 
but a valuable misfit. In the presence of the agriculturalists, who often 
tended toward conservatism and whose identities and sympathies were 
most often with the larger farmers and the landowners, Tugwell was 
not always happy in his job as Undersecretary. With the famous purge 
of the urban liberals connected with the Agricultural Adjustment Ad- 
ministration in 1935, only the broad tolerance of Wallace kept an un- 
happy Tugwell in the department. Working primarily with the older 
agencies of the department, Tugwell saw more clearly than anyone 
else the need for conservation and was instrumental in the creation of 
the Soil Conservation Service. Even as the Agricultural Adjustment 
Administration was helping the advantaged farmer, Tugwell's attention 
was directed to the disadvantaged farm groups, to the tenant and to the 
farm laborer, who, Tugwell believed, needed a labor union. Tugwell 
was more aware of rural poverty and degraded rural labor than most 
land-grant college graduates. He wanted a section in the department to 
advance the welfare of the little man, or the lower one-third. 17 The 
Resettlement Administration was this agency. Although it was made an 
independent agency, Tugwell's position as Undersecretary assured a 

16 Tugwell, A Chronicle of Jeopardy, p. 24. 

17 Lord, Wallaces of Iowa, p. 459. 

America Resettled 153 

close relationship between the Resettlement Administration and the 
Department of Agriculture. 

The Resettlement Administration was a repository for a multitude of 
New Deal programs. It had the task of carrying on rural relief or re- 
habilitation, of continuing the whole land-utilization program, and of 
continuing and extending the New Deal community-building program 
through both rural and urban resettlement. Rural rehabilitation was 
soon to include loans to individuals, loans to co-operatives, grants to 
destitute farmers, and a debt-adjustment program. An additional prob- 
lem was the care of migratory workers. An editorial comment that the 
order creating the Resettlement Administration might better have read 
"To rearrange the earth and the people thereof and devote surplus time 
and money, if any, to a rehabilitation of the Solar System" 18 was almost 
appropriate. The person who wrote the following request can certainly 
be excused for slightly overestimating the functions of the Resettlement 
Administration: "May I appeal to you to help me collect five dollars 
which I loan to a fellow five years ago to be paid back inside 24 hours 
as he was getting married that day." 19 

To Tugwell the assignment of the Resettlement Administration was 
twofold: rehabilitation and permanent reform. For the more than a 
million farm families on relief the Resettlement Administration could 
offer security through loans and careful supervision. But the important 
task was reform. Tugwell believed this meant a rearrangement of 
America according to plan. In rural areas men were living on land that 
could not provide security, largely because of past mistakes in land 
policy. 20 This submarginal land would have to be converted to new, 
more satisfactory uses, such as for recreation or forest culture. Its 
poverty-stricken inhabitants would have to be resettled on land that 
could provide security. This retirement and resettlement would change 
the face of rural America, but it would not absorb all the surplus farm 
population, for fewer and fewer farmers would be needed. Some 
would be going to the cities, where a horrible lack of imaginative city 
planning had created problems in land use even more grave than those 

18 Portland, Maine, Press-Herald, May 24, 1936. 

10 John Bandura to Rural Resettlement, Aug. 24, 1936, R.G. 96, National 

^Rexford G. Tugwell, "Changing Acres," Current History, XLIV (Sept., 1936), 

154 Tomorrow a New World 

in rural areas. Both to provide a "more orderly pattern for the inevitable 
movement from farm to city" 21 and to provide resettlement oppor- 
tunities for urban slum dwellers, suburban towns or garden cities would 
be constructed. Tugwell was ready to begin the unprecedented task of 
rearranging the physical face of America. 

The first task facing Tugwell was a staggering one. Thrown together 
into the Resettlement Administration were the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads, three sections of the Federal Emergency Relief Adminis- 
tration, the state rural rehabilitation corporations, the Land Policy 
Section of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, and small sec- 
tions of several other agencies. These inherited agencies, programs, and 
personnel had to be molded into a completely integrated administrative 
organization that could direct several distinct programs. In addition, 
very vital policies had be be formulated. Even as this proceeded there 
was to be a constant pressure for hasty accomplishments, for the Re- 
settlement Administration was part of the emergency relief program 
and had legislative justification only insofar as it provided immediate 
work relief for the unemployed. 22 These facts should partially excuse 
any early mistakes made by the Resettlement Administration. 

For the office of Deputy Administrator of the Resettlement Adminis- 
tration, Tugwell selected Dr. Will W. Alexander, a clergyman, an expert 
on race relations, president of Dillard University in New Orleans, and 
closely identified with several other Negro colleges. After the registra- 
tion of Tugwell at the end of 1936, Alexander headed the Resettlement 
Administration and the Farm Security Administration until 1940. One 
of Tugwell's many assistant administrators was Calvin Benham 
Baldwin, who had been a Virginia railroad worker and a small business- 
man before coming to the Department of Agriculture as an assistant to 
Henry A. Wallace. He was to head the Farm Security Administration 
from 1940 to 1943 and, even as Alexander, was to continue Tugwell's 
policies. Lewis C. Gray, farm economist and former head of the 
Bureau of Agricultural Economics, came to the Resettlement Admin- 
istration with the Land Policy Section of the Agricultural Adjustment 
Administration. He quite appropriately headed the land program in the 
Resettlement Administration, utilizing a large proportion of the person- 

^Rexford G. Tugwell, "Down to Earth," Current History, XLIV (July, 1936), 

22 Will W. Alexander, "Rural Resettlement," Southern Review, I (1936), 538. 

America Resettled 155 

nel formerly with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. To direct 
rural resettlement, Tugwell selected Dr. Carl C. Taylor, rural sociologist 
and M. L. Wilson's early assistant in the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads. Dr. Eugene E. Agger, a friend and former colleague of Tug- 
well's on the economics faculty of Columbia University, was given the 
very important task of managing the completed communities. A New 
Mexico lawyer and judge, Joseph L. Dailey, became the head of the 
rehabilitation program. John S. Lansill, a city planner, was made 
director of the suburban resettlement program. A lawyer in the De- 
partment of Agriculture, Lee Pressman, was borrowed to head the Re- 
settlement Administration's legal staff. From the personnel of the many 
inherited agencies the Resettlement Administration selected those that 
were to be retained and reappointed them. Approximately 4,200 em- 
ployees were thus acquired from nine different agencies, but it is 
noticeable that most of the top administrative positions were staffed 
with new appointees. 23 

In line with the previous work of the Federal Emergency Relief 
Administration, Tugwell set up a completely decentralized organiza- 
tion for most of the Resettlement Administration program, dividing 
the country into eleven regions and placing most of the action pro- 
grams in the regional offices. Small offices were also set up in each 
state and in most counties. This form of organization was necessary 
for the rehabilitation program, which involved loans and supervision 
in practically every rural county in the country. 24 The suburban 
resettlement program, limited to the environs of a few large cities, was 
controlled from Washington and had no connection with the regional 
offices. On the other hand, the rural resettlement program was under 
the direction of the regional offices, but with a great deal of super- 
vision from Washington. 

The administrative organization of the Resettlement Administration 
was complex and much criticized. Instead of four main divisions to 
perform the four main tasks of the Resettlement Administration 
rural relief, land utilization, rural resettlement, and suburban resettle- 
ment Tugwell created twelve co-ordinate divisions. In addition to 
the four main divisions, such services as management, planning, pro- 

23 Select Committee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Hearings on the 
Farm Security Administration, 78th Cong., 1st Sess., 1943-1944, p. 1107. 

24 Tugwell to L. C. Gray, Nov. 14, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

156 Tomorrow a New World 

cedure, information, investigation, personnel, labor relations, business 
management, finance, and construction were given full divisional 
status. 25 Under each division there were sections, some as large and 
important as other divisions. This plan of organization was criticized 
on the grounds that it led to an overlapping of function, to higher 
administrative expenses, and to difficulties in allotting responsibilities. 
Many believed that the Resettlement Administration was over- 
organized. Certainly it was not set up as a temporary organization, 
since whole divisions were devoted to determining procedures, to pub- 
lishing information, and to making investigations. The personnel of 
the Resettlement Administration soon numbered over 13,000. 

The Rural Resettlement, Suburban Resettlement, Construction, 
and Management Divisions were most intimately connected with 
the Resettlement Administration communities. The Construction Di- 
vision did all the construction for both Rural and Suburban Resettle- 
ment Divisions. Rural Resettlement approved plans for and initiated 
all rural communities, as well as continuing the planning of those 
uncompleted rural communities begun by the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Sub- 
urban Resettlement, which had very little connection with the other 
divisions of the Resettlement Administration, had complete control 
of the greenbelt cities and the uncompleted suburban-type subsistence 
homesteads. Management controlled completed communities, direct- 
ing educational and community activities, developing economic op- 
portunities, selecting settlers, organizing community governments, 
and seeing to the maintenance of the buildings in the communities. 
Of the other main divisions, the Land Utilization Division was pri- 
marily concerned with completing the land-use program, which in- 
volved over 9,000,000 acres of optioned or purchased land and over 
200 work projects to develop new uses for the land. From the displaced 
persons resulting from this program came many resettlement clients. 
Also in the Land Utilization Division was a Land Planning Section, 
which acted as the Resettlement Administration's main research 
organization. It published a Land Policy Circular, studied the nation's 
land problems, located areas for resettlement communities, continued 
the research on part-time farming, and made studies that were used 

^Tugwell to Division Directors and Section Chiefs, June 11, 1935, and Bur- 
ton D. Leeley to E. E. Agger, Aug., 1936, ibid. 

America Resettled 157 

by the Suburban Resettlement Division in planning the greenbelt 
cities. The Rural Rehabilitation Division administered rural relief, 
lending millions of dollars to farmers and co-operative groups for 
equipment and repairs, making grants to completely destitute farmers, 
and adjusting the debts of farm families. Some of its loans were made 
available to co-operatives in resettlement communities, and many of 
its first clients "graduated" into rural communities. 26 

Cognizant of the problems already encountered by the subsistence 
homesteads and rural-industrial communities, the administrators of 
the Resettlement Administration attempted to formulate a completely 
altered program for its new communities. To assist with the formula- 
tion of policy, Tugwell and his associates had the assistance of the 
Land Planning Section of the Land Utilization Division, which co- 
operated with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. They also were 
assisted by the Social Research Section which, as late as 1937, in- 
cluded 114 employees. 27 Frederic C. Howe, the grand old man among 
the reformers in the Department of Agriculture and a very close 
friend of Tugwell, spent six weeks abroad studying housing and 
rural settlement. 28 The Suburban Resettlement Division set up a 
Technical Research Unit which studied English housing and garden 
cities. In 1935 requests were sent to the Secretary of State, asking that 
the Consular Service provide information on foreign housing. 29 Even 
more important, the Resettlement Administration had the advantage 
of all the experience gained by the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. 

Like the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration received many unsolicited recommendations for its com- 
munity program. One man continuously advocated a tung-oil planta- 
tion project. 30 Another asked for experimentation in each of the 
following types of communities: a German suburban homestead; a 
Swiss chalet with its cheese industry; a French ferme with its wine 

20 Resettlement Administration Weekly Information Report no. 47, June 13, 
1936, R.G. 96, National Archives; Resettlement Administration, Interim Report 
(Washington, 1936), pp. 8-9, 17, 23; Resettlement Administration, First Annual 
Report (Washington, 1936), pp. 10-15, 21-26, 63-64. 

27 Carl Taylor to W. W. Alexander, March 4, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

28 Memorandum on Rural Rehabilitation, n.d., ibid. 

29 Cordell Hull to Henry A. Wallace, June 27, 1938, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

30 William K. de Blocq to Tugwell, June 3, 1935, ibid. 

158 Tomorrow a New World 

press; a Danish co-operative dairy farm; a Russian mir with its co- 
operative farm; a Bavarian Dorf with its unusual crop rotations and 
its carp farm; and a forest community. 31 Gerald Geraldson, director 
of Brotherhood House in New York City, suggested that the Resettle- 
ment Administration construct communal households resembling 
monasteries, with the men housed on one floor, the women on another, 
and the children cared for in a single flock. The women would be 
free to arrange for "what ever amount of natural motherhood they 
may desire." 32 The whole colony would be controlled by the "One at 
the Top," who corresponded to a pope. All would labor according to 
ability. Hailing the "Doorway to a new civilization" and "communism 
now," Geraldson stated: "I am free to say that I regard the family 
as a fading social institution and see little of permanant [sic] good 
to be accomplished by efforts to save or re-establish it." 33 

Other advice was of more value. The Land Use Planning Section 
compiled an enormous report on resettlement policy and procedure, 
citing the history of prior settlement efforts in the United States and 
abroad. The report reflected the cautious approach of the land econo- 
mists and advised resettlement on individual or closely grouped farms 
rather than in organized communities. The land economists urged 
every possible encouragement to co-operatives, but warned against 
compulsory or planned co-operation. They cautioned against any at- 
tempt to combine infant industries with farm colonies and asked for 
an ultimate sale price based more on an appraised value and the 
client's earning power than on the actual cost to the Resettlement 
Administration. On the difficult problem of land tenure, they wanted 
a permanent lease for the client unqualified for landownership, a 
temporary trial lease with an option of future purchase for the average 
client, and an extended, forty-year purchase contract for the superior 
client. 34 

Also advising Tugwell on policy matters was a short-lived Planning 
Division, whose personnel represented a distinctly nonrural back- 
ground in contrast to the Land Policy Section. Its recommendations 

31 Dmitry M. Borodin to Tugwell, May 6, 1935, ibid. 

32 Gerald Geraldson to Henry A. Wallace, Nov. 24, 1936, ibid. 

33 Ibid. 

34 Resettlement Administration, Land Utilization Division, Land Use Planning 
Section, "Resettlement Policy and Procedure," pp. 11-62, ibid. 

America Resettled 159 

were, therefore, even less orthodox. The Planning Division set for 
itself the question: "What influence do we want the Resettlement 
Administration to have on the current and coming course of events 
in America?" 35 On the question of tenure in resettlement communi- 
ties it suggested a long-time or permanent control over real prop- 
erty by the government. It advised against part-time farming as a 
means of raising living standards of low-income workers, stressed 
the small economic importance of handicrafts and the greater pos- 
sibilities of co-operative enterprises, and recommended some planta- 
tion projects and completely co-operative farms as social experiments. 
It advised decentralization in existing industrial areas by town plan- 
ning of the garden city type rather than by setting up more Arthur- 
dales and then praying for industry to follow. It believed that tiny, 
remote settlements were not attractive and "should be set on wheels 
and moved to town." 36 Most of all, the Planning Division questioned 
the whole policy of loans as a means to rehabilitation, asking instead 
for grants and a frank subsidy to an already-overburdened group. 
Keith Southard, head of the Planning Division, believed that re- 
habilitation by loan was "a dubious insistence upon some of the 
pioneer virtues which are actually anti-social in this period and cir- 
cumstance." He believed "rugged, but ragged individualism" might 
yield "advantageously to the co-operative forms." These in turn could 
prove educational and create an up-to-date citizenship. They might 
"almost make Democrats out of Green Mountain Republicans." 37 

Tugwell formulated an initial community program that incorporated 
ideas from both the Land Planning Section and the Planning Division. 
Although he did not exclude a few more subsistence homesteads 
communities, TugwelTs main emphasis was to be on all-rural com- 
munities for farmers and garden cities for full-time industrial workers, 
neither depending upon a mixed agricultural and industrial economy. 
The ideas of Elwood Mead and Ebenezer Howard were to find their 
fullest expression in the Resettlement Administration. Rural resettle- 
ment projects would include both the infiltration of settlers into exist- 
ing communities and the creation of new communities. Although not 
affirmed, the probability of some subsidy was accepted; the general 

35 Keith Southard to W. W. Alexander, Sept. 30, 1935, ibid. 
30 Boyd Fisher to Keith Southard, June 15, 1935, ibid. 
37 Keith Southard to Tugwell, Sept. 4, 1935, ibid. 

160 Tomorrow a New World 

policy of rehabilitation by loans, however, was never dropped, in 
fact could not have been dropped because of public opinion. Co- 
operative enterprises were to be a major objective of the Resettle- 
ment Administration. Tugwell, who appreciated the need for some 
limitation on fee simple ownership, stressed security as a better goal 
than ownership, recognized that some people needed continuous as- 
sistance and supervision, and asked for a long-time relationship be- 
tween the government and the individual, either by a long purchase 
contract or by a conditioned lease. Tugwell's greatest interest was 
garden cities or greenbelt cities. For those he followed the well- 
developed ideology of the garden city movement. 38 

The Resettlement Administration was closely related to both the 
Extension Service of the Department of Agriculture and to the Works 
Progress Administration. Since the close supervision of rural relief 
clients and the development of agricultural plans for rural communi- 
ties involved extension work, the Resettlement Administration and 
the Extension Service drew up a plan of co-operation. 39 This never 
led to a close working relationship, mainly because of conflicting 
philosophies. Tugwell confided to Roosevelt: "My greatest difficulty 
has been and will continue to be with the Extension Service which is 
arrogant, opinionated and largely Republican or reactionary." 40 
Later, many extension agents would ally themselves with the leader- 
ship of the Farm Bureau in a long battle against the Farm Security 
Administration. Underneath it all was a class difference. The Ex- 
tension Service usually worked with a group of farmers different from 
those aided by the Resettlement Administration. The ideas and 
policies of Tugwell were anathema to the prosperous, individualistic, 
independent farming class most often represented in the Farm Bu- 
reau. To the landowner, large or small, Tugwell must have seemed 
the antithesis of the agrarian tradition of individualism; his col- 
lectivism was alien, radical, and dangerous. 

The Resettlement Administration and the Works Progress Ad- 
ministration were both relief agencies with a positive emphasis on 

^Address by Tugwell to a conference of regional directors of the Land pro- 
gram, June 18, 1935, and an address by Tugwell to a session of the Resettlement 
Administration's regional directors, Jan. 28, 1936, ibid. 

39 Memorandum of Understanding between the Extension Service and the Re- 
settlement Administration, June 7, 1935, ibid. 

40 Tugwell to Roosevelt, Nov. 18, 1935, ibid. 

America Resettled 161 

useful work and reform; both fed from the same trough, the Emer- 
gency Relief appropriation of 1935. Moreover, the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration, in all its project work, was committed by law to the 
use of relief labor under Works Progress Administration regulations. 
The land-utilization projects were approved only when Works Progress 
Administration laborers were available. This forced relationship led 
to some friction and to a constant struggle for executive funds be- 
tween Tug well and Harry Hopkins. The relationship became critical 
in October, 1935, when the funds for land-utilization projects went 
to Hopkins instead of Tugwell, who had already planned the program 
and assembled an administrative staff. After bitter telegrams to Roose- 
velt and unanswered messages to Hopkins, Tugwell was given per- 
mission to supervise the program, although the money remained in 
the Works Progress Administration. 41 Later, labor and construction 
problems would cause added friction. 

With personnel, an administrative organization, and a set of policies, 
the Resettlement Administration had to begin a rapid program of work 
relief. Since the unspent subsistence homesteads funds reverted to the 
Treasury on June 16, 1935, Roosevelt, on June 24, 1935, allotted 
$7,000,000 of the emergency relief appropriation to Tugwell for the 
completion of thirty-three subsistence homesteads communities. The 
inherited Rural Rehabilitation Corporation funds were available for 
the completion of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration com- 
munities. With the $375,511,675 committed to the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration from the $4,880,000,000 Emergency Relief Act, Tugwell 
made plans, by November, 1935, to use $31,000,000 for four approved 
greenbelt towns and $49,045,650 for rural resettlement projects. 42 
Actually these plans and allotments were very tentative, since they 
were soon reduced, only to be vastly increased by later deficiency 
appropriations and other emergency relief acts. But they indicate the 
vastly enlarged scope of the Resettlement Administration as compared 
with the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, which spent only about 
$8,000,000 in its two years of operation. 

Although the Resettlement Administration received funds to com- 

41 G. E. Falke to Tugwell, Oct. 2, 1935; Tugwell to F. D. Roosevelt (telegram), 
Sept 28, 1935; Tugwell to Roosevelt (radiogram), Oct. 3, 1935; Falke to Tug- 
well (telegram), Oct. 7, 1935; all ibid. 

42 Tugwell to Roosevelt, Nov. 18, 1935, ibid.; U.S. Senate, Resettlement Ad- 
ministration Program, Document no. 213, 74th Cong., 2d Sess., 1936, p. 5. 

162 Tomorrow a New World 

plete only thirty-three subsistence homesteads communities, it re- 
ceived from the Division of Subsistence Homesteads plans for sixty- 
five projects, none of which were rejected until an investigation was 
made by a Special Plans Division. Eleven of the industrial home- 
steads (Bankhead Farms, Beauxart Gardens, Houston Gardens, 
Wichita Gardens, El Monte, Decatur, Austin, McComb, Magnolia, 
Tupelo, and Hattiesburg Homesteads) were near enough completion 
to be assigned to the Management Division. By November, 1935, 
their construction was completed. By December, seven other indus- 
trial homesteads (Palmerdale, Phoenix, San Fernando, Granger, and 
Longview Homesteads; Dalworthington and Three Rivers Gardens) 
were complete. These eighteen communities gave the Resettlement 
Administration fewer problems than any other inherited communities, 
since they were usually located near economic opportunities and 
usually had excellent settlers. Because they were in various stages 
of construction, usually under piecemeal contracts, the Construction 
Division had its problems in completing them, often finding poor 
accounting procedures, bad workmanship, and high maintenance 
costs. 43 The Resettlement Administration completed these communi- 
ties according to original plans, but often added extra community 
facilities, such as community buildings. This, along with the use of 
inefficient relief labor, increased the fears of homesteaders that the 
sale price of their homes would be prohibitive, for it was not then 
clear that the sale would be based on appraised value and a con- 
sideration of the client's earning power instead of on cost. 

Three other industrial homesteads (Mount Olive and Greenwood 
in Alabama and Lake County Homesteads in Illinois) were much 
longer delayed in construction. Duluth Homesteads; Cahaba, near 
Birmingham, Alabama; Hightstown; and the Negro community near 
Newport News were all completely replanned and became, except 
for the choice of location, Resettlement Administration communities. 
Since the homesteaders in the industrial communities had been prom- 
ised ownership and since the local tax problem still plagued these 
communities, Tugwell, soon after the organization of the Resettlement 
Administration, announced that title to the completed subsistence 
homesteads communities would be turned over to co-operative home- 

43 Resettlement Administration, Interim Report, p. 49; Resettlement Administra- 
tion, First Annual Report, p. 69. 

America Resettled 163 

stead associations made up of all the homesteaders in a community 
and that, through this association, the homesteaders would be issued 
purchase contracts. The homestead association, although conducting 
all business, would have to agree to Resettlement Administration 
supervision in order to protect the government's investment. By July, 
1936, the five Texas projects and Longview Homesteads had been 
turned over to local associations. 44 

Shenandoah Homesteads became a special problem for the Resettle- 
ment Administration, since it was a special type of community. Be- 
cause the State of Virginia was purchasing large areas of mountainous 
land for the Shenandoah National Park, the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads had undertaken a resettlement project for the displaced 
hill people. As planned there were to be seven different groups of 
approximately twenty homesteads each, located on small tracts both 
to the east and west of the Shenandoah chain. As the Resettlement 
Administration proceeded with the construction of these seven small 
communities, a furor arose. Many of the mountaineers did not choose 
to be resettled and, in the hands of newspapermen, became martyrs 
to government planning and autocracy. Letters such as the following 
from thirty-one mountaineers contained political dynamite: "Don't 
beleave in mooven these famileys out of there homes in the Park 
era. . . . We all beleave in letting thes mountain people stay wher 
tha are at as long as tha are not in the way." 45 It was useless for the 
Resettlement Administration to protest that it was the State of Vir- 
ginia that was forcing the moves and that it had been another agency 
that had planned the project. 

The whole problem at Shenandoah became aggravated when 
Virginia's Senator Harry F. Byrd began a long campaign against the 
Resettlement Administration, incensed by what he interpreted as a 
stench coming from gross inefficiency and Russian communism. He 
estimated that the cost of the Shenandoah project would reach 
$1,520,219, that the houses would cost from $6,000 to $8,000 each, 
and that they would involve an impossibly high rent for the simple 

44 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1938, 75th Cong., 1st 
Sess., 1937, p. 1311. 

45 Will Bailey and Thirty Others to the Resettlement Administration, Oct. 8, 
1936, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

164 Tomorrow a New World 

mountain folk. As the first homes were completed, he avowed that a 
contractor would have built them for $900 whereas they cost $8,000. 
He decried the purchase of high-priced furniture to give to the world's 
best furniture makers and asked the reason for constructing costly 
community buildings for these people. He described the whole project 
as "a permanent monument to a waste and extravagance such as has 
never before been known in a civilized country." 46 He was even 
more angry when the Resettlement Administration started to carry 
out a plan to have a village-type agriculture and a co-operative farm 
at one of the tracts. Byrd described it as being similar to Russia and 
against all the habits, experiences, and traditions of the homesteaders. 
The plan was changed by the Resettlement Administration. 47 As 
completed, some groups of homes at Shenandoah, with only four 
rooms and without baths and running water, cost as low as $1,518.19. 
The high cost of some of the first units, which Byrd accurately de- 
scribed, was caused by some expensive wells that were condemned 
and by the very modern fixtures in the homes. The final audit of 
Shenandoah showed an average unit cost of $6,357 for the 172 units, 
and this included every single expense, including the cost of the 
land, roads, and management. 48 

The four stranded subsistence homesteads communities, Arthurdale, 
Westmoreland, Tygart Valley, and Cumberland, were the real prob- 
lem children of the Resettlement Administration, even as they had 
been of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. Since the Resettle- 
ment Administration had inherited them, they were now even less 
loved. Although Arthurdale came to the Resettlement Administration 
with a long history of expensive experimentation, it was the lack of 
economic justification that was to plague the Resettlement Administra- 
tion, since Tugwell was not averse to some expensive experimentation 
of his own. The Resettlement Administration soon learned the forget- 
fulness of mankind, for the stranded communities were identified with 
Tugwell and became his mistakes, even though Tugwell constantly 
reiterated that they were established "on a theory in which none of 

* 6 Washington Star, May 27, 1937; correspondence between Byrd and Henry A. 
Wallace in C.R., 75th Cong., 1st Sess., 1937, pp. 7964-7967. 

* 7 C.R. 75th Cong., 1st Sess., 1937, pp. 7964-7967. 

48 Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration, "Shenandoah Home- 
steads: Final Report of Project Costs to June 30, 1939," R.G. 96, National Archives. 

America Resettled 165 

us believed." 49 He had always believed fallacious the idea that in- 
dustry, particularly in a time of depression, would decentralize volun- 
tarily, particularly to isolated mountain communities. But since the 
Resettlement Administration had the stranded communities, Tugwell 
decided to make the best of a sorry fate. He assigned them directly 
to the Washington office of the Management Division in order to 
spare the regional offices any embarrassment. 

The economic problems of the four stranded communities went 
to the Economic Development Section of Management. The situation 
on the four projects was not encouraging. At Westmoreland only 40 
per cent of the heads of families had outside employment. Beyond 
the food produced on their subsistence plots, the rest were dependent 
upon construction work at the project or on the co-operative farm. 50 
At Arthurdale there was a limited amount of construction work, some 
employment in a co-operative furniture factory, and prospects for 
employment in a vacuum-cleaner factory, which was finally opened 
in June, 1936. At Tygart Valley there was a co-operative farm, some 
limited possibilities of employment in the lumber industry, but pri- 
marily work on the completion of the project. At Cumberland most 
of the families were living in barns while enjoying what was to them 
lucrative relief wages as they constructed their own homes. Beyond 
that there was only the rather large subsistence plots of unfertile 
plateau soil or a benevolent government between them and acute 
destitution. Three methods were adopted by the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration to relieve the situation for the four projects. In some cases 
additional land was purchased and added to the co-operative farms. 
In all cases the construction was not rushed to completion at these 
projects, allowing the homesteaders a longer period of employment. 
But primarily the Resettlement Administration relied on co-operative 
enterprises to benefit the communities. Both consumers' and producers' 
co-operatives were organized and aided by ample loans. They became 
fascinating experiments in co-operation, but never solved the economic 
problems. Tugwell rejoiced at the use of co-operatives, defied the 
enemies of these experiments who stood around "with bared teeth," 

49 Rexford G. Tugwell, "Cooperation and Resettlement," Current History, XLV 
(Feb., 1937), 74. 

50 J. O. Walker to Edwin G. Arnold, April 9, 1937, R.G. 96, National Archives; 
Resettlement Administration, First Annual Report, p. 55. 

166 Tomorrow a New World 

and rejoiced that the government was finally organizing the sheep 
instead of aiding the wolves. 51 

Of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration communities in- 
herited by the Resettlement Administration, only two, Woodlake and 
Red House, were enough completed to be assigned to the Management 
Division. Red House was to suffer the same economic ills as the 
stranded subsistence homesteads. Woodlake was the first completed 
all-rural colony in the New Deal. It, along with the other uncom- 
pleted Federal Emergency Relief Administration communities prac- 
tically all rural and many no farther advanced than land purchase 
became almost indistinguishable from the all-rural communities 
initiated by the Resettlement Administration. The same could be said 
for the three all-rural subsistence homesteads, which were replanned 
and completed as Resettlement Administration communities. In many 
cases the Resettlement Administration, in its inherited rural colonies, 
vastly increased the acreage planned for the individual units, since 
the Resettlement Administration's emphasis was usually upon a com- 
plete farming economy. 

Except for some of the inherited rural communities which were 
easily made to conform to the Resettlement Administration's new 
policies in community building, the inherited communities were often 
considered a burden and a liability pushed upon the Resettlement 
Administration by other agencies. Their many problems could be 
blamed on other men. But not so the communities planned and 
initiated by the Resettlement Administration. These were the favored 
children of Tugwell and his assistants. Most favored were the garden 
cities or greenbelt towns. They had been projected in the early New 
Deal days and were closest to Tugwell's heart. Just after the creation 
of the Resettlement Administration, Tugwell had charted a program 
for the Suburban Resettlement Division which included twenty-five 
suburban communities. 52 Limited appropriations and a court decision 
lowered to three the number actually constructed, but these three 
communities Greenbelt, Maryland; Greenhills, Ohio; and Greendale, 

01 Resettlement Administration, Weekly Information Report no. 49, June 27, 
1936, R.G. 96, National Archives; New Brunswick, N.J., Daily Home News, May 
9, 1936; Tugwell, "Cooperation and Resettlement," p. 75. 

52 Jonathan Mitchell, "Low-Cost Paradise," New Republic, LXXXIV (1935), 
152-155; Tugwell to Harry Hopkins, July 18, 1935, R.C. 96, National Archives. 

America Resettled 167 

Wisconsin were by far the largest and most important constructed 
by the New Deal. They were so different from a majority of the other 
communities that they represent an almost isolated aspect of the 
Resettlement Administration. Based on world-wide influence, the 
greenbelt cities, next to the Tennessee Valley Authority, were prob- 
ably the most influential creations of the New Deal. As such they will 
be given extended treatment in a subsequent chapter. 

Beyond the three greenbelt cities, the Suburban Resettlement 
Division so altered the plans of two of the subsistence homesteads 
communities that they became suburban housing developments with 
many similarities to the greenbelt cities. The Suburban Resettlement 
Division also initiated one suburban project which did not strictly 
follow the garden city pattern. At Newport News the subsistence 
homesteads community for Negroes was converted into a small Negro 
housing development of 159 units, surrounded by a greenbelt of farms 
and gardens. Near Birmingham the Resettlement Administration in- 
herited from the Division of Subsistence Homesteads a tract of unde- 
veloped, slag-covered land at Trussville, Alabama. On this the Re- 
settlement Administration began the construction of the small garden 
city of Cahaba, which was planned for 400 units, although only 287 
were completed. Planned as a small town, Cahaba had a central 
water system, a sewage system, streets and sidewalks, a recreational 
area, a complete trading center, and a community building and audi- 
torium. The homes were on lots of one-half to three-fourths acres, 
which permitted individual gardens. A similar community was planned 
and initiated near Ironwood, Michigan, by the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration. Of 400 planned homesteads only 132 were developed, 
each containing five-eighths acres of land. Ironwood included a com- 
munity farm, a canning plant, a small town hall, and a park. Each 
of these three suburban projects was planned for leasing rather than 
for sale. 53 

The largest number of Resettlement Administration communities 
were of the agricultural type. The Rural Resettlement Division 
initiated over 100 rural projects, about 32 of which could be classified 
as communities, although the selection is very arbitrary, since the 
Resettlement Administration resettled some families on individual, 
scattered farms, settled others on contiguous tracts of land and pro- 

53 Resettlement Administration, First Annual Report, p. 72. 

168 Tomorrow a New World 

vided them community facilities, and placed some in well-established 
rural communities. Thus only part of the projects were complete 
communities. In only two or three cases was the European village plan 
tried. In this type of community the houses were grouped together, 
with the fields lying at a distance. The rural projects of a community 
type were predominantly in the South. Although planned and the 
development initiated by the Resettlement Administration, they were 
almost always completed by the Farm Security Administration, some 
as late as the beginning of World War II. Invariably they were de- 
signed for a full-time agricultural economy, with no reliance upon 
industrial decentralization. They were planned as demonstrations of 
a better type of rural life as well as for the rehabilitation of the settlers. 
Prerequisites of all the rural communities included good land, eco- 
nomically adequate farms, an emphasis on home production, adequate 
buildings for health and demonstrational purposes, modern con- 
veniences, complete supervision, and co-operative production. 54 

Though exhibiting individual differences, a majority of the farm 
colonies were similar enough to be characterized collectively. A 
typical one would be in the South. It would contain about 100 indi- 
vidual farm units, inhabited by either white or Negro tenants, but 
not by both. Each farm unit would contain from 40 to 100 acres. 
The house, constructed in 1937 or 1938, would be of light frame 
construction, with from three to five rooms and, in a majority of cases 
in the South, without plumbing. The farm and home practices would 
be closely supervised by the Resettlement Administration or its suc- 
cessor, the Farm Security Administration. Until 1940 the tenure would 
always be by lease, with rent payments usually based on a varying 
percentage of the annual crop production. The community would 
contain certain public facilities, such as a school, a community build- 
ing, a co-operative cotton gin, and a warehouse. In all cases it would 
include from one to over a dozen co-operative enterprises, operated 
by a co-operative association sponsored and heavily financed by the 
government. (See Appendix for a complete list of Resettlement Ad- 
ministration communities. ) 

Of particular interest are those rural communities which were not 
planned in conformity with the existing agricultural pattern. At Lake 
Dick, Arkansas, a 4,529-acre tract was made into a large co-operative 

64 Ibid., pp. 33-37. 

America Resettled 169 

plantation. A village of sixty houses was constructed on the shore of 
a beautiful lake. Each unit contained a two-acre plot for gardens. 
The village had a central water supply, a community building, a 
co-operative cotton gin, a co-operative general store, and the many 
buildings needed for housing and processing the livestock and crops. 
The farm land was leased to an association of all the villagers, who 
co-operatively owned the livestock and farmed the land. 55 The indi- 
vidual farmers, carefully checked by timekeepers, received wages for 
their work and shared in any profits made by the co-operative at the 
end of the year. Lake Dick very much resembled a day-labor planta- 
tion, except for the profit sharing. The association took the place of a 
landlord, and the government, by lending money to the association, 
replaced the local bank or merchant. Lake Dick began full operations 
in 1938 and was never a success. A large number of the tenants dis- 
liked the co-operative system. Only twenty-six units were occupied 
in 194 1. 56 The Resettlement Administration defended this arrange- 
ment as a demonstration of new methods and as a school for inex- 
perienced farmers. At Casa Grande Farms in Arizona the Resettlement 
Administration established a very similar project which contained a 
village of sixty adobe houses and a large irrigated co-operative dairy 
and beef farm, all operated collectively. 57 

In 1936 and 1937 the Resettlement Administration purchased a 
large sugar-cane plantation in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, and con- 
verted it into a collective farm of seventy-one families. The homes 
were located on six-acre subsistence tracts, making a modified village. 
At Terrebonne a 2,800-acre collective farm was devoted to sugar 
cane, truck crops, and livestock. The farm was leased to the co- 
operative association for 99 years. 58 The principle of the co-operative 
farm, already used to a limited extent by the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads and to a much greater extent by the Federal Emergency 
Relief Administration, was adapted to all or parts of about a dozen 
other rural resettlement projects, but without the village plan for 
the homes. The ninety-nine-year lease or a forty-year lease was used 

55 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 1043. 

58 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1943, pt. n, 77th Cong., 
2d Sess., 1942, pp. 241-242, 246, 248. 

OT Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 1038, 1043. 

68 Ibid., pp. 1063-1064. 

170 Tomorrow a New World 

on several Resettlement Administration and Federal Emergency Re- 
lief Administration communities, usually in connection with a co- 
operative association. The village form of agriculture, the collective 
farming enterprises, and the long-term leases were the most important 
departures from traditional American agriculture and the ones most 
criticized. The co-operative plantation, such as Terrebonne, was 
defended as being more in keeping with the Southern plantation style 
of agriculture than were individual farms, particularly for a certain 
untrained class of tenants. The lease system was in line with the 
thinking of many land economists. 

Except for the greenbelt cities, all plans for communities were sub- 
mitted to the Resettlement Administration at Washington from the 
regional offices. By April, 1936, the regions had submitted 196 projects 
for final planning and approval by Tugwell. These early plans were 
the nucleus of almost all the communities initiated by the Resettle- 
ment Administration. 59 All community construction was directed by 
the Construction Division. Employing up to 3,000 men on each project, 
the division was committed to the use of relief labor except for cer- 
tain skilled tasks that were performed by people selected by the 
United States Employment Service. 60 As much as was possible under 
Works Progress Administration commitments, the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration used its own clients in construction work. In all cases 
it paid prevailing regional wages and, as a whole, maintained an 
enviable relationship with labor, receiving commendations from 
William Green of the American Federation of Labor and from John 
L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers. 61 

The first year of the Resettlement Administration was one of forced 
haste and expensive experimentation in construction. The most obvious 
result was extremely expensive housing. Tugwell, who believed that 
housing methods had lagged far behind the efficiency exhibited in 
other fields of endeavor, was determined to find new, mass-production 
techniques for the Resettlement Administration. His first experiment 
was in concrete-slab construction, which involved one immensely 
heavy prefabricated slab of concrete for each side and for the roof 

59 Resettlement Administration, Interim Report, pp. 1415. 
00 Resettlement Administration, First Annual Report, pp. 69-70. 
81 U.S. Senate, Resettlement Administration Program, Document no. 213, 74th 
Cong., 2d Sess., 1936, pp. 19-21. 

America Resettled 171 

of a house, all to be quickly placed in position by heavy machinery. 
This method was planned for the greenbelt cities and was first ex- 
perimented with at Jersey Homesteads, where a portable factory was 
constructed at a cost of approximately $225,000. Many of the slabs 
cracked and the experiment failed, with the Resettlement Administra- 
tion being threatened with patent suits. 62 Another much-publicized 
but less expensive experiment was tried at Mount Olive Homesteads 
near Birmingham, where rammed earth was used in the construction 
of seven houses. This type of construction, though providing almost 
perfect insulation with its seventeen-inch earthen walls, involved much 
less expense for materials (mostly a mixture of soils) but much more 
expense for labor, since the earth had to be packed between forms 
by hand labor. In the long run it was feared that the seven houses 
at Mount Olive would not stand up to the windy, rainy climate. But 
in 1958 they were still standing and were considered among the most 
attractive homes at Mount Olive. Later, under the Farm Security 
Administration, experiments were made in all-steel and in cotton- 
duck construction. The most valuable experimentation was in rapid 
prefabrication of rural, frame-constructed homes, which later led to 
much-lowered construction costs. 63 

Another factor contributing to the high cost of the early construc- 
tion was the high standards maintained. An administrative order of 
September 23, 1935, required all houses to contain inside toilets, baths, 
and electric wiring. Unless specified otherwise, furniture was also to 
be supplied by the Resettlement Administration. 64 Both the high 
standards and the experimentation were ended by early 1937, after 
the resignation of Tugwell and the absorption of the Resettlement 
Administration into the Department of Agriculture. A conference of 
Resettlement Administration and Department of Agriculture officials 
in April, 1937, decided on the future use of standard house designs 
only. They also decided to limit the cost of houses to $1,200 in the 
South and to $2,100 in the North, a difference dictated by climate. 

62 New York Post, Oct. 17, 1935; Washington Herald, Dec. 22, 1935. 

63 New York Herald Tribune, April 12, 1937; "Cotton and Mud Go into Houses: 
Government's Effort to Use Native Materials in Low-Cost Rural Housing," Busi- 
ness Week, Oct. 28, 1939, pp. 20-21; Department of Agriculture, Farm Security 
Administration, Report of the Administrator of the FSA, 1940 (Washington, 1940), 
p. 17. 

64 Adrian Dornbush to Grace E. Falke, Nov. 27, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

172 Tomorrow a New World 

In most cases this meant the elimination of baths in the South and 
the construction of smaller homes. By 1939 only 800 houses in the 
South, out of approximately 2,445, had baths. On one community 
project the average house cost reached a low of $825. This was made 
possible by the elimination of all purely decorative features, by a 
reduction in the number of gables, beams, and rafters, and by using 
standard designs which permitted precutting and prefabrication at 
small portable sawmills. 65 

The original Resettlement Administration house designs, approved 
by farm management experts and structural engineers, were further 
perfected during construction operations. Plans were changed as many 
as thirty times, with resultant savings of up to $400 per home. All 
the designs and improved techniques were turned over to private 
builders and the public in 1938. The continuous work of the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads, the Resettlement Administration, and the 
Farm Security Administration in rural home design represented an 
innovation in American architecture. Formerly rural homes, insofar 
as they had any design, had been modeled on urban homes or on 
impractical designs from the past. The resettlement program marked 
a beginning in functional rural architecture. It also represented the 
first beginning in rural public housing. Will W. Alexander, Administra- 
tor of the Farm Security Administration, said that "if we could house 
all our low-income farm families with the same standards the Danes 
use for their hogs, we would be a long step ahead." In order to do this 
he stressed the necessity of accepting a government subsidy for rural 
housing even as it had already been accepted for urban housing. 66 

The Construction Division of the Resettlement Administration pro- 
cured all its supplies through the Procurement Division of the Treas- 
ury. In September, 1936, this Procurement Division investigated the 
Resettlement Administration projects, finding construction costs from 
33 to 50 per cent higher than by private contract under open-market 
conditions. 67 This naturally led to much adverse criticism of the Re- 

65 Memorandum for the Secretary of Agriculture, April 14, 1937, ibid.; "Cotton 
and Mud," p. 20; Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration, 
Report of the Administrator of the FSA, 1938 (Washington, 1938), pp. 18-19. 

66 Will W. Alexander, "A Review of the Farm Security Administration's Hous- 
ing Activities," Housing Yearbook, 1939 (Chicago: National Association of Hous- 
ing Officials, 1939), pp. 141-143, 149-150. 

91 Henry A. Wallace to F. D. Roosevelt, March 19, 1937, R.G. 16, National 

America Resettled 173 

settlement Administration. It was also an accurate estimate. A com- 
parison of the unit construction costs of homes practically completed 
by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads under the contract system 
and those completely constructed by the Resettlement Administra- 
tion indicates this high cost. The unit costs of homes constructed by 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads ran from $1,916 at Houston 
Gardens to $3,013 at Decatur. The unit costs on Resettlement Ad- 
ministration construction varied from $5,223 at Newport News to 
$8,827 at Lake County Homesteads. 68 Some critics blamed the high 
cost on poor planning and poor engineering, as well as on costly 
experimentation. The Resettlement Administration blamed it on the 
use of relief labor and on the necessity of conforming to Works 
Progress Administration regulations, which, according to the Resettle- 
ment Administration, made any co-ordination between the planning 
and construction divisions impossible. 69 

Legal and congressional obstacles plagued the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration even as they had the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads. Funds for a vacuum-cleaner factory at Arthurdale were tem- 
porarily frozen by Comptroller General John R. McCarl, and several 
congressmen tried to prevent furniture production by the local co- 
operatives at several different projects. 70 But the most serious obstacle 
placed before the Resettlement Administration came from the courts. 
One of the greenbelt cities, Greenbrook, New Jersey, was planned 
for an area near Bound Brook in Franklin Township, where the local 
citizens were well aware of some of the mistakes already made at 
Jersey Homesteads. As the Resettlement Administration proceeded to 
take options on the land for Greenbrook, a group of citizens in Franklin 
Township filed an injunction against the Resettlement Administra- 
tion in December, 1935, on the grounds that the whole Emergency 
Relief Act of 1935 was unconstitutional, that the order creating the 
Resettlement Administration was not under the scope of any United 
States statute or law, that the proposed community was not for the 
general welfare or the common defense, and that the Resettlement 
Administration was exercising powers reserved for the states. 71 The 

68 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1938, pp. 1303-1304. 

69 C. D. Kinswon to M. L. Wilson, July 20, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

70 C.R., 74th Cong., 1st Sess., 1935, pp. 14383-14384, 14418. 

71 New Brunswick, N.J., Daily Home News, Dec. 11, 1935. 

174 Tomorrow a New World 

local citizens objected to the loss of tax revenue, since the Resettle- 
ment Administration could pay no taxes, to the location of the project, 
to the type of architecture planned (they feared the concrete-slab 
construction tried at Jersey Homesteads), to the low class of people 
they believed would live in the project, and to the purchase of such 
a large amount of land (needed for a greenbelt). 72 

When the first injunction was denied, the citizens of Franklin 
Township filed a new one in January in Washington, D.C., against 
Tugwell himself, retaining Spencer Gordon and Dean Acheson as 
their attorneys. After charges of bribery against Resettlement Ad- 
ministration officials had added new heat to the controversy, the Court 
of Appeals of the District of Columbia rendered a decision on May 
18, 1936, that seemed to doom the whole Resettlement Administra- 
tion, as well as the other relief agencies. The court ruled, first of all, 
that the whole Emergency Relief Act of 1935 was unconstitutional, 
since in it Congress unlawfully delegated legislative powers to the 
President by not specifying the actual programs which would be 
financed by the appropriation under the act. To the court this was 
"delegation running riot." 73 The Resettlement Administration pro- 
gram was declared in opposition to state rights, since there was no 
constitutional power for the government to regulate housing or to re- 
settle populations. The court further ruled that the Emergency Relief 
Act of 1935, even though unconstitutional, did not in "a word or 
syllable" authorize a policy of resettling destitute or low-income 
families or of establishing model communities. 74 

The court decision evoked joy in the hearts of all the enemies of 
Tugwell and the Resettlement Administration. For a few days it 
seemed as if the decision might doom the Resettlement Administra- 
tion to the same fate as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration 
and the National Recovery Administration. One editor exulted that 
"when the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia said home 
building is not a public function, it pretty closely expressed the will 

72 New Brunswick, N.J., Times, Nov. 17, 1935. 

73 "Franklin Township vs. Tugwell," in Federal Reporter (2d ser., Cases Argued 
and Determined in the United States Circuit Courts of Appeal, the United States 
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the United States Court of 
Customs and Patent Appeals, St. Paul, 1937), LXXXV, 209. 

id., pp. 219-220; "Editorial," Literary Digest, CXXI (May 30, 1936), 10. 

America Resettled 175 

and desire and thought of the plain people of the nation/' 75 On May 
19, 1936, one day after the decision, the Attorney General ruled that 
the decision, despite its sweeping language, applied only to the Green- 
brook project, the only one included in the injunction. Tugwell him- 
self withheld comment pending an appeal to the Supreme Court, but 
stressed the fact that other construction would proceed. The only re- 
sult of the decision was that the Greenbrook project was discontinued. 
During the time allowed for an appeal to the Supreme Court, the 
other greenbelt cities were pushed toward completion. The Re- 
settlement Administration had wisely decided not to risk an appeal to 
the higher court, but rather surrendered the one project and, per- 
haps, salvaged the rest of its program. An ironic ending to the Green- 
brook story came on July 9, 1936, with the death of Henry Wright, 
who had been coplanner of Radburn, New Jersey, and who, work- 
ing for the Resettlement Administration, had lovingly designed his 
last garden city for the doomed Greenbrook site. 76 

One of the principal reasons for the Greenbrook trouble was the 
inability of the Resettlement Administration to make payments in 
lieu of taxes. On the recommendation of Resettlement Administra- 
tion officials, a corrective bill was introduced in the House by Repre- 
sentative William B. Rankhead of Alabama on May 27, 1936, nine 
days after the court decision. It not only permitted the Resettlement 
Administration to make payments to local governments in lieu of 
taxes but definitely established the state's political, civil, and criminal 
jurisdiction over Resettlement Administration projects. Complemented 
by a similar bill in the Senate, the Bankhead bill became law on 
June 20, 1936, without serious opposition, since it was modeled on 
similar legislation passed for the Public Works Administration. 77 

In February, 1936, a series of four articles entitled "Utopia Un- 
limited" appeared in the Washington Post. Written by a staff writer, 
Felix Brunner, this series was a revelation to many people, including 
some congressmen, and was reprinted in newspapers all over the 
country. Although Tugwell and many of his individual projects, such 

75 Grand Rapids, Mich., Herald, May 25, 1936. 

78 New York Times, July 9, 1936. 

77 C.R., 74th Cong., 2d Sess., 1936, pp. 8145, 10596-10597; House Subcom- 
mittee of the Committee on Ways and Means, Hearings on H.R. 12876, Payments 
in Lieu of Taxes on Resettlement Projects, 74th Cong., 2d Sess., 1936, pp. 1-2. 

176 Tomorrow a New World 

as Greenbelt, Maryland, had received much publicity, mainly of a 
derisive sort, the over-all work of the Resettlement Administration 
was ill understood. Combining an accurate statement of facts with 
subtle insinuations, Brunner described what he, perhaps correctly, 
considered the most far-flung experiment in government paternalism 
in American history. He pointed out that the executive order creat- 
ing the Resettlement Administration gave Tugwell unlimited powers. 
He stressed the immensity and irresponsibility of the Resettlement 
Administration, correctly listing the number of people in its employ at 
13,045. He conveyed an emotional repugnance by the use of such 
words as "campus houses," "communistic," and "utopian," but the 
kernel of his attack was his insistence upon the impossibility of 
limiting or controlling the actions of the Resettlement Administra- 
tion. It had not been created by Congress. Its too numerous employees 
were not under civil service. Its huge and expensive program was not 
the considered objectives of the people or of Congress, but of a few 
planners, such as Tugwell, who were not responsible to the people's 
desires and who had radical ideas about "making America over/' 78 
Brunner's attack probably isolated the basic weakness of the Re- 
settlement Administration and the one that eventually doomed much 
of its program. Many aspects of the resettlement program were not 
based on wide public support, despite the Information Division's at- 
tempts to maintain good public relations. Tugwell believed in broad, 
delegated executive powers which would permit the wide leeway 
needed by planners and experts. He was disdainful of congressmen, 
who, to him, all too often failed to represent the best interests of the 
people they were supposed to serve. He also doubted the efficiency 
of the slow legislative process, particularly in times of emergency. 
Thus Tugwell, with his broad authority under the executive order, 
set up a large administration and initiated an ambitious program 
without any clear mandate from Congress. The Resettlement Ad- 
ministration was itself legislator and executor. Many of the policy 
decisions made by the Resettlement Administration staff would never 
have found majority support in Congress. Tugwell probably realized 
this. Yet he felt that his staff, much more than Congress, with its con- 

78 Felix Brunner, "Utopia Unlimited," Washington Post, Feb. 10, 11, 12, 13, 

America Resettled 177 

flicting interests, knew what the lower third of rural and urban 
America needed. Thus he set out, in a limited sense, to make America 
over. He knew it needed remaking, whether it wanted it or not. But 
just when he had barely begun the task, he began to face opposition 
from the courts, from the public, and from Congress. As the emergency 
lessened, Congress once again became jealous of its legislative and 
policy-making authority and wanted it back. This, in the eyes of many 
congressmen, meant eventual retribution to an upstart like Tugwell, 
particularly if Tugwell made some mistakes. Tugwell may have been 
more nearly right than anyone else. He may have correctly identified 
his opposition as the instruments of special interests. But, in any case, 
his program was doomed unless it found favor with a majority of 
congressmen, for Congress controlled the purse strings. 

The most vulnerable aspect of the Resettlement Administration was 
its communities, regardless of whether they were inherited or initiated 
by the Resettlement Administration. Congressional disfavor had first 
appeared in connection with the Post Office venture at Arthurdale, 
and many congressmen continued to view with alarm any attempts 
to create industries for the homesteaders. The huge expense of con- 
structing the individual communities provided ammunition for con- 
gressmen like Byrd of Virginia. The revelation of Brunner opened the 
whole administrative organization of the Resettlement Administra- 
tion to congressional criticism. Representative Roy O. Woodruff of 
Michigan compared the Resettlement Administration with the Passa- 
maquoddy and shelter-belt projects. He had received a letter from a 
disgruntled Resettlement Administration official which purported to 
prove that the Resettlement Administration paid $2,000,000 a month 
in payrolls to glorified relief clients who were creating a bureaucratic 
empire for themselves, that 894 men in the Management Division 
managed nothing, that the Construction Division spent $30,000 a day 
to build no more than ten houses a month, and that 16,000 employees 
represented a government within a government. Woodruff, like many 
other congressmen, blamed the mistakes made at the Matanuska, 
Alaska, project by the Works Progress Administration on the Re- 
settlement Administration and defined the Resettlement Administra- 
tion philosophy as one maintaining that, "by shifting people around 
from where they are to where Dr. Tugwell thinks they ought to be, 

178 Tomorrow a New World 

somehow in the process the subjects of his experimentation will realize 
the 'more abundant life/ " T9 Woodruff also erroneously stated that 
Tugwell spent $13,000 in administration for every $2,500 of aid given 
to the needy. This accusation was similar to many others that tended 
to identify the Resettlement Administration's activities only with its 
communities. For example, many people could, and did, point to 
Tugwell's 13,500 employees in 1936 and then to the less than 4,000 
clients in the completed communities, thereby completely ignoring 
the vast rehabilitation program which required the largest number 
of personnel and distributed the largest share of the funds. But the 
critics of the Resettlement Administration did have one factual point 
of criticism. To May, 1936, the end of its first full year of operation, 
the Resettlement Administration spent or obligated $205,000,000. Of 
this $23,000,000 went for administrative expenses, or more than 10 
per cent, which was not an enviable record. The large administrative 
costs were defended by the Resettlement Administration officials as 
necessary to initiate a new and complicated program. 80 

Senator W. Warren Barbour of New Jersey became one of the most 
consistent critics of the Resettlement Administration, particularly be- 
cause of mistakes made at Jersey Homesteads. At the time of the 
legal snarl over the Greenbrook project, he led a campaign in the 
Senate for a congressional investigation of Tugwell's agency. On 
March 11, 1936, he introduced a resolution which called for an in- 
vestigation of the nature and extent of the Resettlement Administra- 
tion's expenditures, the nature and extent of its projects already under- 
taken and the advisability of future projects, the effect of projects 
on state and local taxing units and on real estate values, the extent 
to which such projects benefited labor, and the circumstances relating 
to the selection of tenants and purchasers, as well as the effect on 
these people selected. Although this resolution was tabled by a vote 
of 32 to 30, Barbour continued his attack. Using arguments supplied 
by Felix Brunner, he emphasized the enormous size of the Resettle- 
ment Administration, with its sixteen divisions, its twenty-seven 
buildings, its own telephone exchange, and its large personnel. He 
particularly stressed its irresponsibility to Congress. To enable Con- 
gress to obtain the inside information on such a large program existing 

79 C.R., 74th Cong, 2d Sess., 1936, pp. 6110-6111. 
80 Hearings on Payments in Lieu of Taxes, pp. 6-7. 

America Resettled 179 

without law, Barbour secured the acceptance of a resolution asking, 
not for a congressional investigation, but for the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration to provide the Senate with a full account of its work. 
Tugwell already had the report about ready and submitted it on 
May 12, 1936. 81 

The Resettlement Administration had congressional friends as well 
as enemies. Its rehabilitation programs were widely praised. Repre- 
sentative Fred H. Hildebrandt of South Dakota praised Tugwell and 
asked why not "make America over." He believed it was needed. 82 
Representative Maury Maverick of Texas, who knew Tugwell per- 
sonally, sympathized with him, since he believed that Tugwell had 
received more unjust criticism than any other person in Washington. 
He declared that Tugwell was not a "wild man from Moscow" and 
that he had tackled an unappreciated and tremendously difficult task 
in forming a new organization to handle four separate and tough jobs. 
He also defended the administrative organization of the Resettlement 
Administration, which, according to Maverick, followed civil service 
salary scales and was just a step below the Tennessee Valley Author- 
ity in efficiency. 83 In the Senate, Robert La Follette declared that his- 
tory would judge the Resettlement Administration favorably, even 
though fun had been "poked at this program of resettlement by those 
too stupid or too blind to care about the future." 84 

In May, 1936, the Senate, in debating a deficiency appropriation 
bill, defeated by a vote of 38 to 28 an Appropriations Committee 
amendment to the Resettlement Administration section of the ap- 
propriation which substituted "loans" for "rural rehabilitation." 85 
This defeated what was clearly an early attempt to limit the Resettle- 
ment Administration's activities to loans. The 1936 deficiency ap- 
propriation did not continue the Resettlement Administration's right 
to purchase land, although this right, granted by Roosevelt under the 
1935 relief act, continued until 1937. 86 These expressions of congres- 
sional displeasure were contemporaneous with the court opinion about 
the Greenbrook project. As a result the Resettlement Administration, 

^C.R., 74th Cong., 2d Sess., 1936, pp. 3547, 6194, 6264-6267, 7141. The report 
was contained in U.S. Senate, Resettlement Administration Program, Document 
no. 213, 74th Cong., 2d Sess., 1936. 

^C.R., 74th Cong., 2d Sess., 1936, p. 3716. "Ibid., pp. 4068-4070. 

84 Ibid., pp. 8184-8185, 8187. * Ibid., pp. 8184-8185, 8202. 

86 Hearings on the Agricultural Appropriation Bill for 1938, p. 1191. 

ISO Tomorrow a New World 

in September, 1936, announced the curtailment of its community pro- 
gram to projects already planned, which, in light of the large number 
in the planning and early construction stages, meant very little ex- 
cept that no more project plans would be accepted from the regional 
offices. 87 Both Tugwell personally and the resettlement communities 
were objects of attack in the election of 1936. As early as March, 
1936, the Republican National Committee had declared that the Re- 
settlement Administration was setting up communist farms. 88 

By election time it was rumored that the Resettlement Administra- 
tion would soon be absorbed by the Department of Agriculture. Tug- 
well, already planning his resignation from government service, de- 
sired a more permanent status for his Resettlement Administration 
and had been urging Roosevelt to place it in the Department of 
Agriculture, a move that would have been in line with Roosevelt's 
desire to consolidate many of the New Deal agencies. On the other 
hand, many Department of Agriculture officials were fearful of the 
move, seeing a possibility of another feud between the right and left 
wings within the department. Wallace was definitely undecided 
whether or not to accept and continue the resettlement program. 
In November, Roosevelt, following up many of Tugwell's sugges- 
tions about tenure and tenancy and in recognition of a tenant-purchase 
bill already introduced into Congress by Senator John H. Bankhead, 
appointed a special committee on farm tenancy to make a national 
study of the problem. Wallace and Tugwell were both on the com- 
mittee, Wallace as chairman. Just after the announcement of the 
formation of the committee, Wallace and Tugwell left for an im- 
portant tour of the South, both to inspect the Resettlement Administra- 
tion program and to study the tenancy situation. It was Wallace's 
first trip to the area and proved to be a very educational one. Wallace 
was visibly stirred by some of the poverty and exploitation. Long 
before the trip was over, he was completely convinced of the need 
for a continued Resettlement Administration. He announced that the 
Resettlement Administration, which had done a "really marvelous 
job," would probably become a part of the permanent program of 
the Department of Agriculture. This was a notable victory for 
Tugwell. 89 

^Washington Post, Sept. 2, 1936. 

88 New York Herald Tribune, March 31, 1936. 

89 New York Times, Nov. 14, 1936, p. 3; Nov. 18, p. 1; Nov. 26, p. 36. 

America Resettled 181 

Meanwhile, just as the tour began, Tugwell announced his inten- 
tion of retiring from government service in order of all things for 
an avowed enemy of business to join two of his friends, Charles 
W. Taussig and Adolf A. Berle, Jr., in the molasses business. Tugwell 
then gave only personal reasons for his resignation, although there 
was much speculation in Washington about the old feud within the 
Department of Agriculture between liberals and conservatives, about 
Tugwell's seemingly indiscreet statements in the recent political cam- 
paign, and about his long-time role as "whipping boy" in the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture and even for the whole New Deal. Years later 
Tugwell hinted that it was really Roosevelt who desired his resigna- 
tion, not for personal reasons but for political expediency. 90 In any 
case, Tugwell left as a friend. His resignation from both the Resettle- 
ment Administration and the Department of Agriculture became ef- 
fective on December 31, 1936, at which time his beloved Resettlement 
Administration, by an executive order, became part of the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture. Dr. Will W. Alexander became Tugwell's hand- 
picked successor as Administrator of the Resettlement Administration. 
One colleague aptly remarked that the Department of Agriculture 
"was a somewhat duller but more peaceful place with Tugwell 
gone." 91 

After its transfer to the Department of Agriculture, the Resettle- 
ment Administration's community-building program was slowly re- 
vised. A greater emphasis was placed on the infiltration type of 
resettlement. Experimentation in construction was replaced by stand- 
ard designs. It was decided that construction efforts would be centered 
on the completion of projects already under way. Planning activities 
gave place to community-management problems, with the Manage- 
ment Division absorbing the Rural Resettlement and Special Skills 
Divisions. This conformed to the expressed desire of the Senate, which 
almost (by a vote of 36 to 42) deducted $14,000,000 from the 1937 
Resettlement Administration appropriation in order to show its desire 
to have all old projects completed before new ones were started. The 
Senate also threatened to remove $1,000,000 from the appropriation for 
administrative expenses of the Resettlement Administration in order 

^Rexford G. Tugwell, The Democratic Roosevelt (Garden City, N.Y., 1957), 
p. 547. 

w New York Times, Nov. 19, 1936, p. 1, and Nov. 26, 1936, p. 36; Lord, Wal- 
laces of Iowa, p. 462. 

182 Tomorrow a New World 

to show its disapproval of administrative expenses that often ran as 
high as 18 per cent of the total budget and its displeasure at high 
construction costs, which sometimes totaled as much as $14,750 for 
each homestead unit. With the 1937 appropriation, the Resettlement 
Administration had received $536,000,000 since its inception. This 
provoked Representative Robert F. Rich of Pennsylvania to call it the 
most costly experimentation in American history, approaching a 
"national scandal." 92 

In the New Deal the lowly tenant farmer became the subject of 
a nation's attention. The problem of tenancy, more than any other, 
united urban liberals and Jeffersonian purists, for both could agree 
on the seriousness of the malady if not on the remedy for it. As early 
as 1935 a bill involving an appropriation of $1,000,000,000 for tenant 
purchase passed in the Senate, only to die in the House. In 1936 
Roosevelt appointed his special Presidential Committee on Farm 
Tenancy, which included, in addition to Wallace and Tugwell, many 
of America's foremost agricultural leaders. 93 The committee made a 
gloomy report in February, 1937. Two out of every five farmers in 
the United States were tenants; fully one-half of all farmers were in- 
secure in their tenure. The submerged groups of farmers were losing 
incentive, and an old American ideal was rapidly passing. Rigid class 
lines were forming as the normal democratic processes broke down in 
rural areas. Only the assumption of responsibility by the federal gov- 
ernment could reverse the trend. 94 

As an answer to the problem of tenancy and rural insecurity, the 
committee endorsed the beginning work of the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration, but asked for an expanded organization within the 
Department of Agriculture to be called the Farm Security Administra- 
tion. The new agency would continue land retirement, resettlement, 
and rehabilitation, but would also purchase land and sell it to quali- 
fied tenants under long purchase terms. Sale would only follow a 
trial lease, and no title would be granted until after the first twenty 
years of a forty-year purchase contract. Repayment would be based 
on crop yields. As experiments, it recommended some government 

"C.R., 75th Cong., 1st Sess., 1937, pp. 637, 678, 681, 687, 6819-6820. 

3 "Report of the President's Committee on Farm Tenancy," in U.S. House of 
Representatives, Activities of the Farm Security Administration, Report no. 1430, 
78th Cong., 2d Sess., 1944, pp. 89-90. 

lbid., pp. 70-75. 

America Resettled 183 

leasing of land and a few collective farms. But in the main it asked 
for ultimate fee simple ownership of family-sized individual farms, 
whose basic economic disadvantages could be overcome by co-opera- 
tive ownership of heavy machinery and breeding stock. To retard 
speculation in land it recommended a capital-gains tax on any profit 
made on land for the first three years after purchase. 95 

In Congress the best eloquence of the politicians was called upon 
to defend the small farmer and home ownership. Representative 
William B. Bankhead of Alabama went to great lengths to picture 
the desperate plight of the farm tenant, of a "desolate, hopeless, de- 
jected man, working some other man's property, pillaging it, despoil- 
ing its rich resources by virtue of the fact that it is not his." Then, 
after a fitting quotation from "The Man with the Hoe," he asked: "Do 
you own a farm, do you own a lot in the city, have you fee-simple 
title to your own property? Subconsciously the satisfaction is great 
to go out on your own acres, on your own land, put your feet down 
upon it, look up into the sky and say this, thank God, this little bit 
is mine." Now Congress had an opportunity to allow tenants to "put 
off the sackcloth and ashes that they have worn for so many years 
with an inferiority complex and stand up and look into the face 
of the sun and their Creator and say, 'By the generous grace of a 
sympathetic Government I am being given another opportunity to 
prove "the mettle of my pasture." ' 

Actually, despite its obvious concern, Congress showed no inclina- 
tion to enact the far-reaching reforms and experiments advocated by 
the Committee on Farm Tenancy. In 1937, Senator John H. Bank- 
head of Alabama introduced a bill to alleviate tenancy through land 
purchase by a federal corporation which, in turn, was to lease or sell 
land to tenants under a supervised program. In the House, Repre- 
sentative Marvin Jones of Texas introduced a comprehensive farm 
tenancy bill which provided for direct land-purchase loans to tenant 
farmers and, in addition, continued, in a limited form, the rehabilita- 
tion and submarginal-land programs of the Resettlement Administra- 
tion, although the resettlement communities were repudiated. 97 The 
members of the House, including Marvin Jones, were very fearful of 
bureaucratic centralization and thus tried to eliminate any supervisory 

95 Ibid., pp. 76-82. w C.R., 75th Cong., 1st Sess., 1937, p. 6453. 

"Ibid., pp. 6433-6435, 6663-6665. 

184 Tomorrow a New World 

program in connection with tenant purchase. In fact, they specifically 
forbade land purchase by the Department of Agriculture in connec- 
tion with the program. The Senate, more nearly following the recom- 
mendations of the Committee on Farm Tenancy and less fearful of 
bureaucracy, desired a governmental agency, somewhat like the Re- 
settlement Administration, to purchase land and supervise the tenant 
purchasers, thus lessening failures and eliminating speculation. The 
Senate bill passed by voice vote, the House bill by a vote of 308 to 
25, illustrating the near unanimity of approval. In conference the 
major provisions of the House bill were adopted, since the House 
conferees were bound by their colleagues to stand firm for direct 
loans to tenants. The Senate's desire for supervision and protection 
was embodied in a five-year prohibition against sale on the part of a 
tenant purchaser. The combined bill, now named the Bankhead- Jones 
Farm Tenant Act, passed both houses of Congress by voice vote in 
July, 1937. It provided for a Farmers' Home Corporation which was 
to lend money to a limited number of tenant farmers selected by 
county committees. The program was to be administered by the Secre- 
tary of Agriculture, who was authorized to lend $10,000,000 the first 
year, $25,000,000 the second, and $50,000,000 thereafter. 98 

The tenant-purchase program authorized by the Bankhead-Jones 
Act had a close relationship to the Resettlement Administration pro- 
gram. It dealt with the lowly class of farmers and continued a limited 
tenant-purchase program already tried by the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration in the South. Included in the Bankhead-Jones Act were 
sections which gave the first specific congressional mandate for aspects 
of the Resettlement Administration program. Special provisions con- 
tinued the rehabilitation and land-purchase programs, although no 
money was appropriated for rehabilitation. A small but important 
section defined the congressional attitude toward the resettlement 
communities and the land-development projects. The Secretary of 
Agriculture was authorized to continue to perform such functions 
vested in him by executive orders as "shall be necessary only for the 
completion [italics mine] and administration of those resettlement 
projects, rural rehabilitation projects for resettlement purposes, and 
land development and land utilization projects." " At last Congress 

"Ibid., pp. 6582, 6762, 6853, 7133-7144. w Ibid., p. 7135, 

America Resettled 185 

had spoken, and clearly. It had repudiated any further experimenta- 
tion in community building. 

On September 1, 1937, Henry A. Wallace, following the recom- 
mendations of the committee on tenancy as much as or more than 
the Bankhead-Jones Act, established the Farm Security Administra- 
tion to carry out the tenant-purchase program. The authorized Farm- 
ers' Home Corporation was established, as Congress had provided, 
but became only a legal fiction. The Farm Security Administration 
absorbed the Resettlement Administration or, in actuality, was the 
Resettlement Administration under a new name, for the personnel 
remained unchanged. At the same time the Land Utilization Division 
of the Resettlement Administration was returned to its old home, the 
Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The Farm Security Administration 
continued the resettlement communities without any major changes 
in policy. By this time the communities were a minor part of the farm 
security program, but an ever more embarrassing part because of their 
increasing unpopularity in Congress. 

By June, 1937, the Resettlement Administration had completed the 
construction of only thirty-eight communities, while eighty-four 
projects, including communities and scattered farms, were under 
construction. Only 4,441 families were in residence. 100 As mentioned 
before, the Farm Security Administration completed all this construc- 
tion. In doing this it often added more land to projects. Although the 
community program was already in an eclipse, heading toward com- 
pletion rather than expansion, the all-important task of managing 
the completed communities had only well begun. The tremendous 
task of disposing of the completed communities, of "getting the gov- 
ernment out of the real estate business," was still far in the future. 
But Tugwell's Resettlement Administration, born in a burst of idealism 
and enthusiasm, was no more. America remained largely unchanged, 
but not quite. 

100 Department of Agriculture, Resettlement Administration, Report of the Ad- 
ministrator of the Resettlement Administration, 1937 (The second annual report 
of the Resettlement Administration; Washingon, 1937), pp. 14-15. 


The Community as a Locale 
for a New Society 

WHEN a simple farmer, wide-eyed with wonder and expectancy, 
or a hardened, cynical, suspicious coal miner, so inured to hardship 
and struggle as to expect only more of the same, moved into a glit- 
tering new subsistence homesteads or resettlement community, he was 
entering a social show window. Willingly or unwillingly, knowingly 
or unknowingly, he was a human mannequin in a great exhibit, for 
the many architects of the New Deal communities, despite varying 
philosophies, were all striving to create, within the conducive environ- 
ment of their planned villages, a new society, with altered values and 
new institutions. The new society would, of course, be a "better" so- 
ciety, with "better" necessarily defined by the architects themselves. 
The communities, always on exhibit, were to demonstrate and adver- 
tise the new society to the rest of mankind. Planned by social scientists, 
financed by the vast resources of the government, they were to be 
visual signposts pointing to the future. But a community is made up 
of people, and people are not so easily molded to a new pattern. The 
social planners realized this and devoted much time and effort to 
turning a physical reality, land and streets and houses, into a true 
community, with an enlightened and co-operative people. 

The community building actually began before the modern home- 
steaders moved into their new homes, for the decisive element in the 


Locale for a New Society 187 

success of the new community was the people selected as settlers. In 
order to screen the large number of applicants for homesteads, the 
Resettlement Administration set up a much more elaborate selection 
organization than had the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. In the 
area near each project or group of projects the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration sent a regional chief of family selection, who was as- 
sisted by senior and junior family-selection specialists, all trained and 
experienced social workers. Utilizing field invesitgators and the best 
casework procedure, the social worker thoroughly investigated each 
applicant. References were required; the applicants were visited by 
social workers, and questionnaires covering every aspect of the ap- 
plicant's life were carefully filled out. Before final selection the appli- 
cant often had to undergo a physical examination. This thorough 
investigation provoked criticism, for some people alleged that the 
Resettlement Administration was violating civil rights in so intimately 
exploring the private affairs of its clients. Among the varying criteria 
used for selection were age, health, economic stability, character, 
and number of children in the family. 1 

One selection criterion was, of course, that the family selected be 
from a low-income group. For the suburban projects the Resettlement 
Administration tried to maintain an upper salary limit of $1,600. 
The rural clients, almost always from an even lower economic level, 
were either refugees from land-retirement projects, deserving tenant 
farmers, successful rehabilitation clients, or young people desiring to 
enter farming. Since the rigid screening system seemed likely to insure 
an industrious and intelligent group of homesteaders, many people 
claimed that the communities could prove very little about a better 
way of life, for the clients were of such caliber that they would be 
successful in an environment that gave them any opportunities at 
all. Actually the Resettlement Administration clients were not as ex- 
ceptional as the screening process would indicate. Even though the 
most obvious undesirables were excluded, many homesteaders lacked 
industry and some contentious ones gave the Resettlement Administra- 

1 John B. Holt, An Analysis of Methods and Criteria Used in Selecting Families 
for Colonization Projects (Social Research Report no. 1 of the United States De- 
partment of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration and the Bureau of Agri- 
cultural Economics; Washington, 1937), pp. 44-50; Paul W. Wager, One Foot 
on the Soil: A Study of Subsistence Homesteads in Alabama (Bureau of Public 
Administration at the University of Alabama, 1945), p. 40. 

188 Tomorrow a New World 

tion nothing but trouble. A survey of resettlement communities dis- 
closed an average family of 5.2 people, with the average husband 
aged 37.3 and the wife 33.3. The average educational attainment of 
the husband was 7.2 grades, of the wife 8.1 grades. 2 

When a resettlement client moved into a new community, some- 
times from a share cropper's hut or a tenement house in a slum dis- 
trict, he was moving into a new world, with a standard of living 
heretofore hardly dreamed of by anyone in his economic status. His 
new home had often cost as high as $5,000 or $6,000; his farm or 
subsistence plot and the outbuildings had cost up to $4,000 more. If 
he were in a suburban community or greenbelt city the streets, sew- 
age disposal plants, water systems, and community facilities had cost 
equally as much. Even granting that all those facilities were turned 
over to the homesteader without any cost or any obligation for re- 
payment and they were not the settler was still left in a situation 
that required a larger income than in the past. Taxes were higher; 
maintenance was increased; an electric bill, perhaps a phone bill, 
and probably a larger heating bill were added to his expenses. This 
new standard of living, beyond the fact that it required tremendous 
social adjustments on the part of many homesteaders, raised the prob- 
lem of possible economic failure. Was there any reason to hope that 
a group of Alabama Negro tenants, suddenly placed in new homes at 
Gee's Bend community, would be able to enjoy their new status by 
farming their same old cotton farms? What magic ingredient could 
be added to a small group of family-sized farms and immediately 
double or even triple their earning power? Whatever the magic was, 
it had to be supplied by the Resettlement Administration. 

The problem of economic opportunities plagued the whole New 
Deal community program. As mentioned before, the stranded com- 
munities were planned without a sufficient economic base and suf- 
fered thereafter because of this lack. The suburban communities, and 
particularly the greenbelt cities, were located near enough to industrial 
employment to eliminate any employment problems, but the low- 
income families could not repay the government for its investment in 
what turned out to be rather expensive housing. They could, and 

2 Calvin B. Baldwin, "Farm Security Administration's Sixth Year in Rural Hous- 
ing," Housing Yearbook, 1941 (Chicago: National Association of Housing Officials, 
1941), pp. 262-263. 

Locale for a New Society 189 

did, afford to live in and maintain their new communities. The in- 
dustrial-type subsistence homesteads, located between industry and 
agriculture, were ideally situated for economical living, but not unless 
the subsistence plots were intensively utilized. This placed on the 
Resettlement Administration the task of educating the homesteaders 
in gardening and home production. The all-rural communities, planned 
for full-time agriculture, were really testing grounds for American 
small-farm agriculture. They were to indicate, in many cases, that 
either the standard of living set by the Resettlement Administration 
was higher than a family-based agriculture could support in the years 
from 1936 to 1941 or that the Resettlement Administration and the 
Farm Security Administration, in the planning and supervision of 
projects, caused economic failure, for most of the rural projects did 
not provide a net profit during these years, let alone permit any re- 
payment to the government. 

The magic ingredients that the Resettlement Administration pro- 
posed to add to the rural and semirural communities were two: co- 
operation and expert supervision. It was felt that a group of small 
farmers, or even a group of subsistence farmers, could reap the eco- 
nomic benefits of a large, highly efficient commercial farm by more 
socialization or by co-operation. For example, heavy machinery, ut- 
terly impractical for one small farmer, could be owned by the farm- 
ers of a whole community. Procurement of supplies, processing of 
products, and marketing could be done co-operatively and, therefore, 
with all the efficiency of a large commercial farm. The vast efforts in 
co-operative endeavors will be considered in later paragraphs. 

The Resettlement Administration's whole rehabilitation and rural 
resettlement program was keyed to the extensive supervision of its 
clients. For the subsistence homesteads communities this meant home 
economists to teach canning and food processing and agricultural ad- 
visers to teach gardening and small, subsistence farming. On the all- 
rural projects it meant that farm and home experts were responsible 
for the whole economy of the project. Working from the Economic 
Development Section of the Management Division, at least one home 
economist was placed in each major community. 3 A farm management 
expert was present in every rural or semirural community. Each 

3 Rena B. Maycock, "Home Economic Work in the Resettlement Administra- 
tion," Journal of Home Economics, XXVIII (1936), 560-561. 

190 Tomorrow a New World 

family on a rural project was required to work out complete farm and 
home plans for each crop year and to keep itemized records. Under 
the guidance of experts, the farmers planned for the home produc- 
tion of foods, for diversified crop and livestock programs for market 
production, and for practices promoting soil fertility. These plans were 
detailed, often including itemized budgets of all expenditures for the 
year. Beginning in 1937 the homesteaders in rural communities were 
allowed to receive government loans for their yearly needs. 4 In the 
South this put the Resettlement Administration in the position of the 
landlords and furnishing merchants of the past. Since the crops were 
a lien on the loan, the loan itself became an instrument for rigidly 
enforcing the home and farm plans prepared by the supervisory per- 
sonnel. On some projects the project manager or farm adviser had 
joint bank accounts with the individual homesteaders, which meant 
that the penniless homesteader, dependent upon the government loan 
which had been placed in the bank for him, could not spend a 
penny without his supervisor's approval and signature. This close 
supervision led to the criticism that the Resettlement Administration 
or Farm Security Administration was destroying all initiative through 
paternalism. The Resettlement Administration early defended super- 
vision as a means of increasing initiative through economic inde- 
pendence and of educating the less capable farmers. 5 

The task of a farm adviser was not an easy one. Although an ex- 
pert, he was not able to work miracles, such as bringing rains when 
they were needed or raising farm prices to the level of 1919. Perhaps 
his problems are best revealed in the following unguarded reflections 
of a Resettlement Administration official who was attempting to de- 
vise farm plans for a new project in Michigan, but who was very 
fearful that a practical farm program would never repay the high 
building costs of the community: 

Many times have I completed this vicious circle the past year. Although it 
is possible to prove most anything by figures my conscience is not so heavily 
seared but what I can see lurking behind the trees in these plans the gri- 
macing outlines of old man weather, the always questionable management 

4 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration, Report of the 
Administrator of the FSA, 1940 (Washington, 1940), pp. 4^5; Resettlement Ad- 
ministration, "Management News," Feb. 15, 1937, mimeographed, R.G. 96, Na- 
tional Archives. 

5 Resettlement Administration, First Annual Report (Washington, 1936), p. 38. 

Locale for a New Society 191 

efficiency of some of our clients, the minimum standards of living, the haz- 
ard in harnessing the human factor in a harmonious life on some of the 
socialized or semi-socialized plans for our project. Less foreboding than the 
above I see future goblins waiting for their opportunity to save mankind 
with their Utopias. In this group are the sociologists with the guinea pig 
complexes, the town planners and the engineers with an earnest desire to 
build their monuments before death and the architects and landscape archi- 
tects with their esthetic tastes so necessary to their profession. Old man red 
tape and old lady bureaucracy are flirting in the shadows but seem little 
disturbed about our present plan or my dream. They realize they will exact 
their pound of flesh on any plan we present. 6 

Several communities were provided with special educational facili- 
ties. In almost every community some educational activities were 
sponsored by the managing agencies. On the adult level the work 
of the home and farm supervisors, of co-operative specialists, of local 
extension and vocational agriculture teachers, and of specialists in 
handicrafts and skills represented forms of education. For the children, 
most isolated or large communities included project schools. Begin- 
ning under the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, a special experi- 
ment in vocational and progressive education was carried out at 
Arthurdale in specially constructed school buildings and under the 
sponsorship of several of America's leading educators, including John 
Dewey. The educational facilities at Arthurdale, for both adults and 
children, formed the center of the community activities. The Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads and the Resettlement Administration, in 
the rural and subsistence homesteads projects, erected thirty-two com- 
bination school and community buildings, nine school buildings, and 
twelve teachers' homes. 7 Each of the greenbelt cities had combination 
schools and community buildings. Although, with the exception of a 
short period at Arthurdale, these schools were public and operated 
by local governments, the Resettlement Administration exerted an 
influence on their operation, not only by owning the building but in 
helping to select teachers. In at least one community a part-time Re- 
settlement Administration employee was also principal of the com- 
bined project and county school. 

6 Merton L. Wright to A. C. Lytle, Dec. 24, 1936, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

7 F. C. Howe to Rexford G. Tugwell, May 17, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives; 
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration, Report of the 
Administrator of FSA, 1938 (Washington, 1938), p. 17. 

192 Tomorrow a New World 

A new society requires a new education. In the thirties the new 
type of education was progressive education, which seemed ideally 
suited for the transition from a competitive to a co-operative society. 
Dr. Morris R. Mitchell, a former member of the Advisory Committee 
of the Progressive Education Association, was appointed Chief Edu- 
cational Specialist of the Resettlement Administration. 8 The result 
was that progressive education was introduced into several project 
schools, usually with the assistance and approval of county school 
superintendents or the state colleges of education. As an example of a 
typical progressive school, the daily schedule at the Pine Mountain 
Valley school included group work along developed lines of interest 
and outdoor activity in the morning, an hour of academic drill after 
a very early lunch, and then a discussion of the day's work and the 
planning of the next day's program. Before disbanding at 1:05 P.M. 
for informal activity, the children usually elected to sing a few songs. 9 

This aspect of a new society, like several others, was not always 
well received by the homesteaders. At Penderlea a young principal, 
just out of Teachers College, Columbia University, attempted to 
establish as the "center of the homestead community," an "experi- 
mental progressive school," which departed in "its every unit from 
the standard school curriculum and class division." In the midst of 
a rural community which had no former association "with this edu- 
cational tradition," his "enthusiasm for the educational ideas in which 
he was trained appear to have led him from time to time to present 
his views more vigorously and in a light more advanced than was 
acceptable to a proportion of the patrons of the school." 10 Despite 
the wishes of the Resettlement Administration, he was dismissed by 
the county. At Cherry Lake Farms the new education proved hard 
to inaugurate, even for the children, but an enterprising teacher 
"took hold of a query about the dairy," which led her and her pupils 
into a fascinating "exploration around the dairy." They also visited 
the construction of a community building and were "having the time 
of their life," according to a visitor. 11 

In 1938 the rural communities of the Farm Security Administration 

8 W. W. Alexander to Erwin H. Sasman, Jan. 7, 1937, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

9 Plan of Operation for Pine Mountain Valley School, 1935, ibid. 

10 Memorandum from George Mitchell to R. S. Ryan, May 3, 1938, ibid. 

11 A report by C. B. Loomis, Jan. 31, 1936, ibid. 

Locale for a New Society 193 

included fifty-eight community or combined community and school 
buildings. These community buildings became a near must for any 
community. They were the locale for meetings of co-operative asso- 
ciations, clubs, social groups, parent-teacher associations, and religious 
groups; they were used for dances, weekly movies, plays, lectures, 
and recreation. They indicated the social planners' desires to influence 
not only the economic and educational life of its community clients, 
but their social life as well. One of the primary wishes of many of 
the people connected with the communities was that communities 
foster neighborliness, co-operation, and group activity. A mark of 
success in a community was the number of social organizations, pref- 
erably of an educational variety. One of the principal arguments 
for communities rather than individual settlement was the belief that 
the individualistic American farmers, so long isolated on their farm- 
steads, lacked the social advantages of city dwellers or of European 
farmers. The planners believed that community activities could en- 
rich the life of the farmer. The community buildings were criticized 
because they seemed to be attempts to isolate and separate the com- 
munities from the area in which they were located or because they 
indicated an attempt to tell people how to organize their social life 
when no expert had the right to do this. In many communities the 
community building was either not wanted or seldom used. At Austin 
Homesteads the homesteaders, who organized their social life around 
activities in the nearby town, did not want their community build- 
ing and, rather than maintain it, considered giving it to the city of 
Austin. 12 

One of the most interesting aspects of the New Deal communities 
was the fervent attempt to revive handicrafts, such as weaving, wood- 
working, and metalwork. In the early days of the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads, many people, including M. L. Wilson, Eleanor 
Roosevelt, and Clarence Pickett, believed that a revival of these 
handicrafts could provide part of the income of subsistence farmers, 
could invoke a community spirit, and could lead to a restored pride 
in workmanship, a pride that seemed so lacking in assembly-line 
America. The impetus to crafts came from the work of the American 
Friends Service Committee in the coal-mining areas. Even before 

12 Russell Lord and Paul H. Johnstone, eds., A Place on Earth: A Critical Ap- 
praisal of Subsistence Homesteads (Washington, 1942), pp. 61, 195. 

194 Tomorrow a New World 

the subsistence homesteads program began, a group of miners near 
Morgantown, West Virginia, had established a Mountaineer Crafts- 
men's Co-operative Association for chair manufacturing, cabinetwork, 
weaving, pewter ware, and metalwork. 13 With the construction of 
Arthurdale the association moved to a new factory provided for it by 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. From an economic stand- 
point the Arthurdale venture, which provided employment for sev- 
eral men and women, was more successful than handicraft industries 
on other projects. 

As the subsistence homesteads communities were completed, the 
women were encouraged and instructed in weaving. The Quakers con- 
tinued to assist in the program, with a couple accepting a homestead 
at Arthurdale for the express purpose of teaching weaving. With the 
creation of the Resettlement Administration a Special Skills Division 
was organized to carry on, among other duties, the handicraft pro- 
gram. Probably for the first time in history, government employees 
traveled about the country with titles such as Associate Adviser in 
Weaving or Assistant Adviser in Woodworking. Surveys were made 
of stones, clays, sands, and tools. In Region I, which included New 
England and the area as far south as Maryland, a routine survey of 
arts and crafts among resettlement clients became, under a regional 
enthusiast, a survey by questionnaire of every artist and craftsman 
in the region. Tugwell, recognizing that this went far beyond the 
scope of the Resettlement Administration, tried to halt the survey 
but could not until several cubic feet of records were accumulated. 14 

Under the handicraft program looms were set up in most com- 
munities. Since the program did not usually yield appreciable eco- 
nomic returns, it was continued largely as a recreational or aesthetic 
program. Although the Special Skills Division was disbanded soon 
after the Resettlement Administration went to the Department of 
Agriculture, a limited number of enthusiastic employees continued 
the handicraft program, traveling from community to community, 
loom to loom. As late as 1940, in the "Monthly Report on Weaving," 
a fieldworker reported a trip of project women to Gatlinburg, Ten- 

13 Clarence E. Pickett, For More than Bread (Boston, 1953), pp. 32-35. 

"Grace E. Falke to George S. Mitchell, Sept. 19, 1936, R.G. 96, National 
Archives; Grace E. Falke to Dorothy M. Beck, Sept. 25, 1936, ibid.; Tugwell to 
D. M. Beck, n.d., ibid. 

Locale for a New Society 195 

nessee, to observe the craft manufacturing there. One devoted 
teacher of weaving had only two women come to her class on a cold 
winter's day. When one of the two women had the initiative to suggest 
a name for the small group of two, the instructoress exclaimed in an 
ecstasy of joy: "To hear that come from them and not me was truly 
delightful!!" 15 Of such enthusiasm was the whole handicraft program 
forged. In 1942 only three lone, traveling instructors continued the 
program. 16 

The Special Skills Division, organized in August, 1935, was also re- 
sponsible for much of the recreation and cultural needs of the com- 
munity. It was to furnish teachers in the fields of fine and applied arts 
and, more than that, was to produce paintings, sculpture, and other 
art material for the communities. It was housed in a single unit that 
contained workshops and laboratories. Much of its time was required 
for administrative duties, such as work with publications and ex- 
hibits, but its enthusiastic director, Adrian J. Dornbush, was most 
interested in providing special services for the projects. Under his or- 
ganization there were the following units: landscaping, music, sculp- 
ture, painting, ceramics, dramatics, weaving, wood- and metalwork, 
research, records, furniture design, and general services. Included on 
his staff were Mary La Follette, daughter of Robert La Follette; Eliza- 
beth Horflin, interior planning expert on the faculty of Columbia 
University; Henry La Cognina, an Italian woodworking specialist; and 
Otto Wester, a metal designer who had sculptured with Norman Bel 
Geddes. 17 

Dornbush's greatest difficulties were in securing sufficient money 
to carry out his program and in establishing any clear jurisdiction for 
his division. He was particularly interested in rural and folk music and 
wanted to set up a special program to gather and record folk music, 
but could not secure funds. Juris dictionary he was threatened by 
Rural Resettlement, which made furniture, by the Education and 
Training Section, which was inclined to teach in the field of art, and 
by the Economic Development Section, which, in encouraging eco- 
nomic developments, often included needlework and handicrafts. On 

15 Susan R. Christian, "Monthly Report on Weaving," Nov., 1940, ibid. 
10 Doris M. Porter to Mason Barr, Aug. 15, 1942, ibid. 

"Adrian J. Dornbush to Allen Eston, Aug. 12, 1935, and Dornbush to Units 
and Section Heads, Oct. 13, 1936, ibid. 

196 Tomorrow a New World 

the other hand, Dornbush balked at including "the fattening of 
calves" as either an art or a craft. 18 

In the creation of the new society the Special Skills Division had a 
large share of the responsibility. It designed most of the "simple and 
substantial" furniture and set up demonstration houses at each project 
in order to show the homesteaders the best arrangements and to im- 
press visitors to the projects. It advised the architects and engineers 
on house designs, decorative sculpture, flagpoles, and the playground. 
It planned the curtains, rugs, and upholstery for the homes. Its painters 
provided murals for community houses and recorded in paintings the 
progress of the different projects. The following "inspiring" paintings 
were made during the construction of Greenbelt, Maryland, for later 
display in the completed town: "Pouring Concrete," "Constructing 
Sewers," "Concrete Mixer," and "Shovel at Work." 19 Mary La Follette 
directed a dramatic program, scouring the country in order to collect 
a library of rural plays. A playwright, Margaret Valiant, wrote a play, 
"New Wine," which was first produced in resettlement communities 
and which, while receiving many favorable comments, was described 
as "good propaganda" for the Resettlement Administration. Yet much 
of the program had to be carried out with the assistance of other 
agencies. Since the Works Progress Administration directed the large 
Federal Arts Project, Henry A. Wallace personally asked Hopkins 
for the use of Works Progress Administration artists for decorating 
the Resettlement Administration's public and community buildings. 
Dornbush had a written agreement from the Works Progress Adminis- 
tration Recreational Division to provide personnel to resettlement 
communities whenever possible. The Federal Theatre and Music 
Division also agreed to co-operate with the Resettlement Adminis- 
tration. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed looms and 
benches. 20 

In the attempt to create a new society, each of the sponsoring 
agencies devoted special attention to health and medicine. But since 
the new society was to be based on the community rather than the 

18 Dornbush to Grace E. Falke, Nov. 27, 1935, and Dornbush to E. E. Agger, 
Oct. 17, 1935, ibid. 

19 Dornbush to John Lansill, Feb. 9, 1937, ibid. 

^William P. Farnsworth to Dorthea T. Lynch, Sept. 22, 1936, ibid.; Wallace 
to Hopkins, April 6, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives; Dornbush to Major John O. 
Walker, June 23, 1937, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

Locale for a New Society 197 

individual, there had to be significant alterations in medical prac- 
tices. Dr. William E. Zeuch, Co-operative Specialist in the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads, suggested the establishment of co-opera- 
tive infirmaries on large projects as the first step toward socialized 
medicine. 21 At Arthurdale the Division of Subsistence Homesteads 
paid the wages of a community nurse, and the American Friends 
Service Committee supported a project physician. At Dyess Colony, 
Arkansas, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration constructed 
a full-sized hospital which was operated by a co-operative associa- 

On the establishment of the Resettlement Administration a Public 
Health Section was created, with a medical officer borrowed from the 
United States Public Health Service at its head. It immediately cor- 
related the construction program with state and local health ordi- 
nances and tried to insure sanitary sewage disposal, safe drinking 
water, and decent housing. On approval from the legal section, it at- 
tempted to place in each community project a public health nurse 
who, if possible, worked with the county health departments. It also 
recommended that small health centers, with offices for physicians 
and nurses, be included in plans for all future projects. In completed 
projects existing buildings or homes were used for medical clinics. 
The Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administra- 
tion constructed fourteen health centers in their communities. 22 

The main problem faced by the Resettlement Administration medi- 
cal personnel was how to provide adequate medical and dental care 
for fees that its low-income clients could afford to pay. This was a 
problem not only in the projects but for the whole rehabilitation pro- 
gram. Obviously health was an important element both in rehabilita- 
tion and in the ability of a client to repay his loan. A plan emerged 
in 1936. Co-operative medical associations were set up both in projects 
and in rural counties all over the country, always with the approval 
of local and state medical societies. The Resettlement Administra- 
tion acted as an intermediary, drawing up a set of memoranda with 
state medical societies and lending money to the locally organized 
co-operatives. This was the first time the government had supported 

21 William E. Zeuch to Leroy Peterson, Aug. 2, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

22 Resettlement Administration, First Annual Report, pp. 93-94; Farm Security 
Administration, Annual Report of the Administrator of FSA, 1938, p. 17. 

198 Tomorrow a New World 

group medicine. Under the typical plan, the homesteader or rehabili- 
tation client paid a monthly fee of approximately two dollars into a 
group fund. For this payment he received all his medical services. In 
a few cases similar dental associations were formed. Where the as- 
sociation included the rehabilitation clients for a whole county, any 
co-operating physician could be utilized by the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration client. The physicians were permitted to set their own 
fees without any type of interference from the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration. In the communities, where there were usually clinics 
and either part-time or full-time physicians, the members of the 
community medical association had to pay slightly higher fees and 
received better service. They could attend regular clinics or, in emer- 
gencies, call their doctor to their homes. Since the project physician 
was paid a set salary, the community association could assess set 
fees, whereas county associations often had to raise their fees because 
of deficiencies in funds. By 1941 over 100,000 families were included 
in the Farm Security Administration medical program. 23 

The group medical program was considered a success in most in- 
stances. There were reported cases of abuse by both doctors and 
patients, and a minority of county associations were disbanded after 
a year or two of operation, but as a whole the program expanded 
each year. The Resettlement Administration was backed in its experi- 
ments in this new field by the Rosenwald Foundation and the 
Twentieth Century Fund. 24 The most surprising thing was the way 
that the Resettlement Administration was able to win the sup- 
port of rural doctors and local medical societies, despite years of 
propaganda by the American Medical Association against the dan- 
gers of socialized medicine. One reason for the local support was the 
plight of rural doctors, who, by this plan, were better assured of 
collecting their much-needed fees. The opposition came mainly from 
city specialists who were less familiar with the program or the need 
for it. 25 Dr. Ralph C. Williams, director of the medical program, was 

23 Richard Hellman, "The Fanners Try Group Medicine," Harper's Magazine, 
CLXXXII (1940-1941), 72-78; Dr. Ralph C. Williams to W. W. Alexander, Dec. 
30, 1936, R.G. 16, National Archives; Memorandum for Arthur Chew, Oct. 9, 
1941, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

24 Samuel Lubell and Walter Everett, "Rehearsal for State Medicine," Saturday 
Evening Post, CCXI (Dec. 17, 1938), 23, 62-65; Resettlement Administration, 
First Annual Report, p. 94. 

25 Hellman, "The Farmers Try Group Medicine," p. 77. 

Locale for a New Society 199 

responsible for an excellent selling job, but even he became involved 
in some controversies. In North Dakota the Resettlement Adminis- 
tration tried a state-wide group plan which was declared to have 
"extremely dangerous implication" by a writer in the Journal of the 
American Medical Association, leading to a long correspondence and 
controversy between him and Williams. In Wisconsin the state legis- 
lature defeated a bill to permit medical co-operatives in the state by 
a vote of 63 to 27, bringing a great "hurrah" from Senator F. Ryan 
Duffy. But, despite some criticism, the editor of the Journal of the 
American Medical Association and several leading physicians en- 
dorsed the Farm Security Administration medical program in 1943. 26 

Potentially, one of the most cohesive influences in a community 
is its religious life. Yet on this subject the Resettlement Administra- 
tion had to be scrupulously neutral. Rigidly adhering to the separa- 
tion of Church and State, it left all religious activities to the people 
on the projects. To an inquiring minister, the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration officials courteously expressed concern over the religious 
life of its clients and "naturally favored it being carried on on com- 
munity lines as much as possible," but stressed its inability to en- 
courage or discourage religious activities. Resettlement Administration 
personnel could not help to organize local religious services, but could 
attend religious services in project churches. The homesteaders were 
allowed to hold religious meetings in the community buildings and 
were permitted to build churches on the projects if they were willing 
to clear their building plans with Resettlement Administration 
planners. When the citizens of Penderlea actually planned a church, 
the Farm Security Administration laid down rather rigid rules. They 
could proceed at once if twenty-five families signed a written request 
for a lease on a piece of land. With the approval of a two-year lease, 
the families could begin construction only if they had 75 per cent 
of the construction costs in cash and had had their plans approved 
by the Farm Security Administration. 27 

In one aspect the contemplated new society of the community 
builders had to remain very much like the old society, despite the 

20 01in West to R. C. Williams, Dec. 11, 1936, R.G. 96, National Archives; 
Senator F. Ryan Duffy to W. W. Alexander, July 26, 1937, ibid.; C.R., 78th 
Cong., 1st Sess., 1943, Appendix, pp. 1897-1898. 

27 J. O. Walker to Rev. C. Edwin Brown, Aug. 12, 1936, R.G. 96, National 
Archives; Memorandum for J. O. Walker, July 26, 1937, ibid.; J. O. Walker to 
George S. Mitchell, March 3, 1938, ibid. 

200 Tomorrow a New World 

wishes to the contrary. Racial segregation remained. From the very 
beginning the Division of Subsistence Homesteads invited Negroes 
to its council tables. Bruce Melvin headed a special section on 
Negroes, Mexicans, and Indians. Negro technicians were employed. 
In January, 1934, Eleanor Roosevelt invited a group of Negro leaders 
to the White House to discuss the problem of segregation in the 
subsistence homesteads program, enlisting their support and creating 
a better understanding of the problems. 28 In March, 1935, a confer- 
ence in the Division of Subsistence Homesteads led to the decision 
that Negroes should participate equally with whites, with at least 10 
per cent of the homesteaders being Negroes. But it also decided that, 
although no homestead in the project book should limit homesteaders 
as to race, homesteaders would, in practice, have to be selected "ac- 
cording to the sociological pattern of the community, at all times 
interpreting the facts as liberally as feasible, keeping in mind the 
success of the project." 29 In actuality this meant segregated projects, 
with some agitation from Negroes. Funds allotted for Indian projects 
were turned over to a special agency created within the Department 
of the Interior. 

Although the Department of the Interior and the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads yielded to popular opinion on the segregation 
issue, they did make real efforts to construct several all-Negro 
projects. Thirty Negro communities were considered, plans were 
drawn for fifteen, and applications by sponsors were received for 
four. Yet, in 1935, out of thirty-one projects under construction, not 
one was for Negroes. On the basis of population there should have 
been at least three Negro communities; on the basis of housing need 
and agricultural background, many more. As a result of this record 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads announced that no more 
white homesteads would be constructed until the Negroes shared 
equally. 30 This commitment led to the initiation of the Newport 
News or Aberdeen Gardens project just as the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration absorbed the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. When 

28 Pickett, For More than Bread, p. 49. 

29 Memorandum, Division of Subsistence Homesteads, March 20, 1935, R.G. 96, 
National Archives. 

30 Division of Subsistence Homesteads, "Colored Projects," n.d., ibid.; Memo- 
randum, Division of Subsistence Homesteads, March 20, 1935, ibid. 

Locale for a New Society 201 

opened on November 28, 1936, Aberdeen Gardens was the first com- 
pleted Negro community of the New Deal. Aided by Hampton In- 
stitute, it was constructed by Negro technicians and laborers. To 
avoid racial clashes a greenbelt of farm land was provided. 31 

The early failure to provide Negro projects was summed up by 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads as follows: "The fact remains 
that numerous protests on the part of white citizens against colored 
project locations have been one of the major contributing causes of 
failure/' 32 When Ralph Borsodi was planning a Negro project near 
Dayton, 1,100 citizens from three townships petitioned him and the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads not to construct such a project, 
since it would allegedly mean Negroes in white schools, Negro chil- 
dren playing with white children, and a depreciation of property 
values. 33 When a Negro project was planned for Indianapolis, Repre- 
sentative Louis Ludlow, the congressman from the area, received 
numerous complaints and made a protest against the proposed project 
to the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. Definite obstructionism 
in Indianapolis prevented the acquisition of any suitable site. Even 
the Newport News project was completed in spite of violent pro- 
tests by local citizens and by Representative Schuyler O. Bland of 
Virginia. 34 

The Federal Emergency Relief Administration projects included 
some communities that were developed for Negroes and one com- 
munity, Roanoke Farms, which was planned for both whites and 
Negroes. The Resettlement Administration, although never breaking 
with local patterns of segregation, was abundantly fair in its alloca- 
tion of rural projects. Negroes, particularly in the South, shared 
equally in both rehabilitation and resettlement programs. Several 
communities and scattered farms projects were for Negroes. At least 
one project was for Indians in North Carolina. The migrant labor 
camps were particularly designed for Mexicans. Except for Aberdeen 

31 Resettlement Administration, Management News, Feb. 15, 1937, ibid. 
83 Division of Subsistence Homesteads, "Colored Projects," n.d., ibid. 

33 Citizens of Harrison, Jefferson, and Madison Townships to Ralph Borsodi 
April 2, 1934, ibid. 

34 C. E. Pynchon to William E. Zeuch, Feb. 4, 1935, and Joseph H. B. Evans to 
W. W. Alexander, July 5, 1935, ibid.; S. O. Bland to W. W. Alexander, Feb. 22, 
1937, Wallace to S. O. Bland, March 17, 1937, and D. L. Sanders to the Resettle- 
ment Administration, Feb. 25, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

202 Tomorrow a New World 

Gardens, the limited suburban resettlement program did not include 
any Negro communities. One of the most interesting compliments 
on the biracial program of the Farm Security Administration came 
from the Board of Supervisors of Bolivar County, Mississippi, who 
commended the Farm Security Administration for selecting clients 
of "the White and Negro races," for employing "White and Negro 
supervisors," and for selling and leasing farms to "both the White and 
Colored Races." 35 

Perhaps the most tragic story connected with any project came 
from the Cahaba community ( Trussville ) , near Birmingham, Ala- 
bama. Many Negro families lived on the plot of ground purchased 
but never developed by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. 
Although warned to evacuate the site, the Negroes, now admittedly 
squatters, lived on, since nothing happened. Then one morning the 
Resettlement Administration, deciding to go on with the project, gave 
the Negroes one week to move from the area. As reported, the 
"women folks knowed hardly what to do and we just went to cryen 
and cryen." 36 They were forced out and, perhaps for sanitary rea- 
sons, their homes were burned. The forty displaced Negro families 
moved to forty acres of worthless land on Sandstone Ridge, where 
they lived in shacks and shanties, carrying their water from the 
valley, while white tenants moved into the beautiful new homes 
constructed on their old homesites. 37 

The real key to the new society was to be co-operation. The 
whole history of the New Deal communities could be related to the 
idea of co-operation, which was to replace competition and extreme 
individualism. From M. L. Wilson, who saw co-operation as the only 
means of retaining democratic institutions, to Tugwell, whose desire 
for a collectivized, co-operative society was almost a religion, the 
architects of the New Deal communities were attempting to develop 
co-operation as the new institution best suited for the modern en- 
vironment. No more concerted public effort was ever made in the 
United States to develop co-operatives of all kinds. Voluntary, demo- 
cratic co-operation was to be the alternative to the economic inse- 
curity and chaos of an individualistic, capitalistic past and to the 

35 Resolution of the Board of Supervisors, Bolivar County, n.d., R.G. 96, Na- 
tional Archives. 

30 "The Forty Families," n.d., R.G. 83, National Archives. 37 Ibid. 

Locale for a New Society 203 

involuntary, totalitarian collectivism of both fascism and communism. 
But apparently most of the social scientists were at least partially 
aware of the hold that individualistic institutions had on the average 
American and of the unpredictable difficulties involved in creating 
the new, co-operative society. 

In the dark depression days of 1933 several self-help co-operatives 
were established throughout the country by the Division of Self-Help 
Co-operation in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. In 
November, 1933, M. L. Wilson and Jacob Baker, who headed the 
self-help program, jointly decided that subsistence homesteads would 
develop several talents needed in self-help and, if Ralph Borsodi's 
experiences were a criterion, would develop co-operative enterprises 
and industries. At this time they were thinking particularly about 
handicrafts and, perhaps, some truck farming. As the subsistence 
homesteads communities were constructed, four of them, the stranded 
communities, received loans totaling $46,400 from the Division of 
Self-Help Co-operation for the establishment of co-operative activi- 
ties. 38 The same idea of self-help permeated the Federal Emergency 
Relief Administration community program, with several of the com- 
munities being constructed by the co-operative work of the home- 
steaders. The co-operative idea was further reflected in the many co- 
operative farms. It reached its fullest expression in the Division of 
Subsistence Homestead's plans for an all co-operative community at 
Jersey Homesteads, where every economic activity was to be con- 
trolled by co-operatives. The Division of Subsistence Homesteads ac- 
quired Dr. William E. Zeuch as a special adviser on co-operation. He 
was an enthusiast, desiring many fully co-operative communities. He 
believed that the transition from a "competitive to a co-operative so- 
ciety" could not be achieved "on a voluntary, democratic basis." Be- 
cause of the "hangovers of competitive-conditioned behavior patterns," 
he believed that arbitrary power in the new co-operatives had to be 
voluntarily delegated to experienced, efficient, honest, and wise man- 
agers. 39 

Since most of the community management was left to the Reset- 

38 M. L. Wilson and Joseph Baker to Ickes, Nov. 3, 1933, R.G. 96, National 
Archives; Charles S. Games, Jr., to Edward Stone, Oct. 3, 1935, ibid. 

39 Dr. William E. Zeuch, "Problems of Co-operative Communities," Co-operative 
Self Help, I (May, 1934), Mimeographed, pp. 16-17, ibid. 

204 Tomorrow a New World 

tlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration, it was 
these agencies that put the co-operative idea to a thousand practical, 
or impractical, uses. Tugwell believed that co-operatives could teach 
the fallacy of individualism and competition. He declared that co- 
operation was the easiest, most natural thing in the world. 40 In the 
earliest days of the Resettlement Administration he secured the author- 
ity to make loans to co-operative associations as part of the rehabili- 
tation program. Most of these loans, contrary to past government 
lending policies, went to producers' co-operatives, including many 
on the community projects. Tugwell deplored the almost entire em- 
phasis in the past on consumers' co-operatives, declaring that if the 
government credit agencies were "socially minded" producer co- 
operatives might arise. Tugwell advocated co-operation as a practical 
need and not as a religious crusade, as it almost had been under the 
Rochdale Movement. He refused to subscribe to the dogmatic views 
of existing co-operative movements and rejoiced at being able to use 
government funds to break "large cracks in orthodoxy." Only on one 
point did the Resettlement Administration force conformity to ortho- 
dox co-operative theology. It required that all its co-operatives in- 
clude in their by laws a provision that each member should have only 
one vote. 41 

A Co-operative Unit was established in the Economic Develop- 
ment Section of the Resettlement Administration. The unit included 
an executive, several co-operative specialists, and co-operative man- 
agers on many projects. The Economic Development Section drew 
up recommended charters and bylaws, application forms for loans 
and grants, and the administrative procedure for making loans to co- 
operatives. As early as October, 1935, the first loans were made to 
the co-operative associations at Arthurdale and Red House for a 
general store and agricultural activities. Under the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration most of the early co-operatives established were for the 
production or processing of agricultural products, for consumer serv- 
ices, or for medical care, since a ruling by the Comptroller General 

40 Rexford G. Tugwell, "Cooperation and Resettlement," Current History, XLV 
(Feb., 1937), 75. 

^Robert Straus to Leroy Peterson, Aug. 9, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives; 
Leroy Peterson to Thomas Holland, Nov. 6, 1936, ibid.; Tugwell, "Cooperation 
and Resettlement," pp. 71-72, 75-76; Resettlement Administration, "Guide for 
Planning Community and Co-operative Activities," n.d., R.G. 96, National Archives. 

Locale for a New Society 205 

in 1936 prevented loans for productive co-operatives not associated 
with agriculture, a ruling later amended for the stranded communi- 
ties. As soon as a community was completed, it usually went through 
a period of rapid co-operative organization, with an unbelievably 
large number of co-operative activities carried on at some projects. 
Many co-operative associations carried on ten or twelve different 
programs. Among the services, facilities, and activities organized on 
co-operative lines in the various communities were the following: 
farms, pastures, dairies, wood lots, greenhouses, rock quarries, poultry 
enterprises, hog breeding, cattle breeding, lime crushing, canneries, 
barbershops, cobble shops, feed grinding, gristmills, handicraft in- 
dustries, orchards, vineyards, factories, tearooms, inns, restaurants, 
hospitals, potato-drying houses, garages, filling stations, medical as- 
sociations, blacksmith shops, warehouses, cane mills, farm equipment, 
cotton gins, coal mines, seed houses, hatcheries, sawmills, freezing 
plants, and even a burial association. As a result of too much early 
enthusiasm and extravagance, many uneconomical co-operatives had 
to be liquidated at a great loss. An alarmingly large number failed 
because of poor management, resentment of government control, lack 
of understanding of the co-operative idea, nonbusinesslike practices, 
factionalism in the associations, and outside competition or opposition. 
The medical co-operatives were probably the most successful. 42 

The Resettlement Administration realized that the project clients 
would not be able to operate successful co-operatives without super- 
vision and education. As a result it initiated a program of co-operative 
education, utilizing reading materials and lectures given by a field 
force of co-operative specialists. In some projects adult study groups 
met as often as three times a month for lectures, group study, and 
forums. In many colonies youth leagues met once a month to explore 
the co-operative field. A youth conference on co-operation was held 
at Westmoreland for co-operative league members from several 
projects. Guides to co-operative activity were mimeographed and 
distributed to the projects. Beyond all this the co-operative associa- 
tions were very closely supervised either by the community manager 
or, in the case of the largest associations, by co-operative managers 

42 Leroy Peterson to E. E. Agger, Oct. 30, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives; 
Irving J. Levy to Walter E. Packard, Oct. 26, 1936, ibid.; Howard Gordon to 
C. B. Baldwin, April 3, 1941, ibid. 

206 Tomorrow a New World 

employed by the Resettlement Administration. One of the things 
that often hurt the co-operatives was the people's resentment at not 
having enough voice in what was publicized as "their" co-operative. 
In defense of this supervision, it can be pointed out that the co- 
operatives were entirely financed by government loans. 43 

Although co-operation was desired as a substitute for individual 
enterprise, in many projects co-operative enterprises became almost 
entirely a matter of economic necessity rather than of ideological de- 
sirability. Since Congress had forbidden government factories on com- 
munity projects and since the Comptroller General refused to allow 
the Resettlement Administration to use government funds directly to 
subsidize private industries on the projects, the co-operative associa- 
tions were used as the only remaining device to bring employment 
to the economically stranded communities. The Economic Develop- 
ment Section of the Resettlement Administration began making plans 
for co-operatively owned manufacturing plants at the stranded com- 
munities in 1935. Budgets were prepared, the work of the Tennessee 
Valley Authority in industrial decentralization was studied, and mar- 
keting agreements were made with Sears, Roebuck and Company. 
These plans had to be abandoned because of a ruling by Comptroller 
General McCarl preventing the use of Resettlement Administration 
funds for subsidizing private industry. 44 

From 1935 through 1937 the Resettlement Administration attempted 
to raise the economic status of the stranded communities by estab- 
lishing various nonindustrial co-operatives. At Cumberland Home- 
steads, for example, a tremendous $550,000 loan to the Co-operative 
Association in December, 1936, was used to establish a sorghum 
plant and a cannery and to operate a project coal mine, all of which 
failed because of inexperience, crop failures, labor union troubles, 
lack of markets, and a pocket instead of an expected vein of coal. 
At Tygart Valley a loan of $400,000 in January, 1936, was partly used 
for a stone quarry, a potato-curing house, the co-operative farm, 
warehouses, consumer stores, and a filling station. At Red House, 
Arthurdale, and Westmoreland similar loans were used for farms, 
dairies, canneries, and other services. Rut none of these co-operatives 

43 Leroy Peterson to E. E. Agger, June 29, 1936, ibid.; Leroy Peterson to Thomas 
Holland, Nov. 6, 1936, ibid.; Report from Region IV, Resettlement Administration, 
Dec., 1936, ibid. 

44 E. E. Agger to R. G. Tugwell, n.d., ibid. 

Locale for a New Society 207 

erased the economic problems of the projects, partly because of man- 
agement failures, but even more because they were limited to such 
a small economic base. The consumer co-operatives, no matter how 
successful, could provide employment to only a few project members, 
since they were service rather than productive enterprises. The co- 
operative farms and related activities, such as the canneries, were not 
large enough to employ more than a few of the settlers, since none 
of the stranded projects had been planned with enough acreage for 
commercial agriculture. The great need remained for some type of 
industry. 45 

On June 21, 1937, the Resettlement Administration, after clearance 
from the Comptroller General, went ahead with plans that had been 
frustrated by legal snarls since 1935. On that date M. L. Wilson, 
then Undersecretary of Agriculture, announced several loan agree- 
ments with co-operative associations on stranded projects for the es- 
tablishment of industrial enterprises. 46 These loans, plus later ones, 
were used to establish a wood dimension mill at Tygart Valley, a 
tractor assembly plant at Arthurdale, a pants factory at Westmore- 
land, and hosiery mills at Cumberland Homesteads, Skyline Farms, 
Penderlea Homesteads, Bankhead Farms, and Red House. A total of 
$4,328,000 was lent to the co-operative associations for investment in 
plants and in early operating expenses. In each case the co-operative 
association worked out a managerial agreement with a private indus- 
try; the Farm Security Administration, as the financing agent, was a 
party to the agreement and, in reality, the major party. At Tygart 
Valley the co-operative association leased its industrial assets to a 
fictitious corporation which, in turn, entered an agreement with the 
Gamble Sales Dimension Company of Louisville. This company, 
which furnished plant management and sales services for a flat fee 
plus a percentage of the net profit, was protected against any serious 
losses, since all the investment was made, indirectly, by the govern- 
ment. An almost identical procedure was followed at Westmoreland, 
where the Washington Sales Corporation supplied the managerial 
and sales personnel for the pants factory. At Arthurdale the tractor 

45 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 88-91; Select Committee of the 
House Committee on Agriculture, Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, 
78th Cong., 1st Sess., 1943-1944, p. 1756. 

48 Memorandum for the Secretary of Agriculture, Oct. 22, 1937, R.G. 16, Na- 
tional Archives. 

208 Tomorrow a New World 

plant was managed by American Co-operatives, Incorporated, which 
provided managerial services free of charge. In September, 1938, the 
Farm Security Administration and the other five associations entered 
a management agreement with the Dexdale Hosiery Mills of Pennsyl- 
vania to operate and manage the five hosiery mills. The Dexdale 
Company received a share of the annual earnings but no guaranteed 
fee. 47 

The co-operatives' venture into private industry was successful in 
only one respect it provided, at least for a few years, jobs and a de- 
gree of economic security to the occupants of the projects. But to the 
co-operative associations, to the government, and even to the private 
industries involved, the enterprises were financial failures. From in- 
ception to December 31, 1942, the five hosiery mills had suffered a 
net loss of $63,982.44 and, with one small exception, had repaid none 
of the principal invested by the government. The mill at Cumberland 
Homesteads had shown a small profit and had made a token repay- 
ment. The woodworking plant at Tygart Valley had lost $190,816 by 
the beginning of 1943 and, by 1944, was being sued because of its 
inability to repay its loan. The pants factory at Westmoreland lost, 
through 1942, approximately $213,292 and, on October 1, 1943, was 
leased directly to the Washington Sales Corporation. After operating 
for only one year, the Arthurdale tractor assembly plant closed with 
a loss of $106,380.21. 48 The hosiery mills, operating in the finest fac- 
tories in the South, were seriously hurt by the wartime scarcity of 
nylon and the forced conversion to rayon. An experienced textile ex- 
pert investigated the Penderlea factory and concluded: "In all of my 
experience in hosiery I have never seen a greater waste of money or 
a mill more badly managed, and cannot by the greatest stretch of 
imagination think of anyone who would be so careless in manufac- 
turing if they had to use their own money." 49 By 1944 the hosiery 
mills were being readied for sale. 

47 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration, Report of the 
Administrator of the FSA, 1939 (Washington, 1939), p. 22; House Agricultural 
Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hearings on the Agricultural 
Department Appropriation Bill for 1941, 76th Cong., 3d Sess., 1940, pp. 973-977; 
Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 1749-1760. 

48 U.S. National Housing Agency, Third Annual Report, January 1 to December 
31, 1944 (Washington, 1945), p. 214; Hearings on the Farm Security Adminis- 
tration, pp. 1748-1763. 

49 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 1763. 

Locale for a New Society 209 

The industrial plants made the Farm Security Administration even 
more vulnerable to criticism from a Congress which was becoming 
more and more hostile to all the reform programs of the New Deal. 
To Congress the co-operative associations were ruses to enable the 
Farm Security Administration to get around the prohibition of gov- 
ernment factories on the projects. By furnishing all the money, through 
the associations, the Farm Security Administration was defying the 
expressed intent of Congress. More than that it was, in essence, grant- 
ing subsidies and favors to selected private industries. The Farm Se- 
curity Administration appropriation for the fiscal year 1944 prohibited 
any further loans to co-operative associations, thus impairing the 
whole co-operative program of the Farm Security Administration. At 
the time the prohibition went into effect (July 1, 1943), the Resettle- 
ment Administration and the Farm Security Administration had lent 
over $7,000,000 to 446 co-operative associations. After 1943 the Farm 
Security Administration continued to supervise the existing co- 
operatives. 50 

The co-operative associations were supposed to serve one other 
purpose. While a project remained under direct government man- 
agement, about the only place the homesteaders could have a voice 
in managing their own community was in "their" co-operatives, where 
they were all assured one equal vote. Even when the first com- 
munities were turned over to the homesteaders, ownership and man- 
agement were placed, not in the individuals, but in co-operative 
homestead associations. In both cases the co-operative device was in- 
tended to be, and in many cases probably was, an education in demo- 
cratic processes and in the problems of group organization. Yet in 
neither case was there completely free individual participation. The 
Farm Security Administration, with its large investment at stake, was 
afraid to turn the co-operative associations over to the inexperienced 
people of a community. Thus their participation in their co-operatives 
was often a mere formality, with either the project manager or a 
co-operative manager making all the important decisions. Even the 
homestead associations had to sign a managerial agreement with the 

50 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1945, pt. n, 78th Cong., 
2d Sess., 1944, p. 989; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Adminis- 
tration, Postwar Developments in Farm Security, Annual Report of the Farm 
Security Administration for 1945-1946 (Washington, 1946), pp. 16-17. 

210 Tomorrow a New World 

Farm Security Administration, thus assuring a continued control or 
supervision of community activities. 

The furthest extension of the co-operative idea was in those projects 
where practically all economic activity was organized along co-opera- 
tive lines. These included the industrial community at Hightstown and 
the co-operative farm colonies. One group of farm colonies included 
the three communities ( Lake Dick, Casa Grande, and Terrebonne ) so 
designed that co-operative farming was almost necessitated, since the 
farm lands surrounded farm villages which included only subsistence 
plots. In another type the Farm Security Administration leased a large 
plot of ground, usually for ninety-nine years, to a group of families 
organized into a co-operative association. These associations usually 
leased only a part of a community project, with Scuppernong Farms in 
North Carolina including two such co-operatives. These completely 
co-operative farms represented an expansion of the same co-operative 
ideas that were applied to the partly co-operative projects. From a 
practical standpoint it was believed that only group activities and co- 
operative devices could give the small farmer the productive efficiency 
needed if he were to survive the competition of large commercial 
farmers. From a social and personal standpoint, they were to bring 
the joys of social participation, the ability to work together, the eco- 
nomic security of an organized group, and a new set of social rather 
than individual goals and values. Many of the co-operative farms were 
planned as a continuation of the plantation tradition in the South. 
They were usually planned for the class of farmers that were most in- 
capable of carrying on successful individual farming operations. 

The co-operative farms represented an almost complete break with 
free enterprise. One tenant facetiously remarked that he owned only 
his chickens and his children. 51 From a standpoint of physical organiza- 
tion, the co-operative farm colonies were closely related to the com- 
munal colonies of America's past. The Farm Security Administration 
sent representatives to study and to prepare a report on the Amana 
colonies in Iowa, one of the few remaining examples of colonies founded 
around a religious ideal. The co-operative farm colonies were also 
very similar to the Delta Co-operative Farm which Sherwood Eddy 
had just recently established in Mississippi. The Farm Security Ad- 

51 Oren Stephens, "FSA Fights for Its Life," Harper's Magazine, CLXXXVI 
(1942-1943), 482-483. 

Locale for a New Society 211 

ministration had agreed to provide some aid to Delta. Yet the govern- 
ment colonies, such as Lake Dick, had to be peopled with American 
farmers, who had a deeply ingrained sense of individualism and no 
cohesive ideology. 52 

The co-operative farms were economic and, apparently, social fail- 
ures. First of all they suffered from the same problems of many of the 
other rural projects. All the fine homes and facilities on such a project 
as Lake Dick could not be paid for by the plantation income. At Lake 
Dick, the purest example of a collective farm, the acreage was not large 
enough to support sixty families. Only when the population was reduced 
to thirty-five families did the farm actually pay a profit for one brief 
year. But the largest problem was the nature of the people involved. 
Many of them were ready to live in a co-operative colony when, in the 
depression, it offered them the only security they could find. But once 
on the project, a settler often disliked depending upon his less capable 
neighbor. His central goal soon became a farm of his own, where he 
could be free and independent. In five years the turnover at Lake Dick 
was 400 per cent. The co-operative farm there was disbanded in 1942, 
and the plantation rented to Negro tenants on a share-crop basis. 53 At 
Casa Grande, Arizona, the farm director resigned in 1939, calling the 
project a Russian co-operative. This same accusation was widely voiced 
and was, perhaps, inevitable, in view of the physical similarities be- 
tween the Russian collective farms and the Farm Security Administra- 
tion co-operative colonies; but, since all the resettlement clients volun- 
tarily resided on the co-operative projects and left at will, the accusation 
was very unfair. At Casa Grande the settlers said that the only thing 
communistic about their project was "our dictator and he's resigned." 54 

The new society was a goal of the social and economic planners. Their 
work at the project level was in furtherance of this goal. But, as has been 
indicated before, the new society, as a reality, was very difficult to 
achieve. Much of the detailed social planning had been untried before 
in this country and may have been rewarding in even its negative re- 
sults. The avowed experimental nature of the communities probably 

52 Carl H. Monseen to J. O. Walker, Feb. 3, 1938, R.G. 96, National Archives; 
Lewis E. Long to Sam H. Franklin, n.d., ibid. 

53 Stephens, "FSA Fights for Its Life," pp. 482-483. 

""Farm Troubles: Co-operative and Ex-Director Call Each Other Communists," 
Newsweek, XIII (Jan. 16, 1939), 40-41. 

212 Tomorrow a 'New World 

endangered their early success. It is problematical what the home- 
steaders at such publicized places as Arthurdale must have felt when 
they read that their government had, in the past, sponsored experi- 
mental stations for the breeding of plants and animals and now was 
spending money for experimental communities. Some of the com- 
munities aroused almost as much critical curiosity as nudist colonies 
or the early Oneida. This made the settlers feel as though they were 
on exhibit and prevented the communities from being accepted into 
the larger community. They remained islands, visited by "sociological 
souvenir hunters" who could ask the "most personal and intimate" 
questions. 55 

Too often the homesteaders were overly idealistic in their expecta- 
tions about their new homes and, when disappointed at the reality, 
became bitter toward the government. Almost always the early home- 
steaders were enthusiastic, feeling that they were modern pioneers. 
Part of the Tygard Valley Song illustrates this: 

In nineteen thirty-five 

We began to arrive 

From empty mine and wasted timber-line 

And farms that no longer could thrive 

Back to the plow and the land 

By the sweat of our brow and our hand, 

To build from the start 

With faith in our heart 

As shoulder to shoulder we stand. 56 

But once on the project, things usually went wrong. Policies were 
changed at Washington, and the homesteaders felt cheated. The large 
expenses in construction often aroused fears of such high purchase 
prices that the homesteader could never afford them. More than any- 
thing else, the long delay in granting purchase contracts led to dis- 
satisfaction. Always there was the ever-present reality of personal 
clashes. Some community managers were disliked. The same Tygart 
Valley homesteaders who sang the enthusiastic song all went on a 
strike in 1937 over the appointment of a manager, leading to a great 

55 William E. Brooks, "Arthurdale A New Chance," Atlantic Monthly, CLV 
(1935), 203; Millard M. Rice, "Footnote on Arthurdale," Harpers Magazine, 
CLXXX (1939-1940), 418. 

66 Russell Lord, Wallaces of Iowa ( Boston, 1947 ) , p. 425. 

Locale for a New Society 213 

deal of excitement and lasting bitterness. 57 At Cumberland Home- 
steads the whole community went on a rent strike that lasted for al- 
most a year because they thought that the government was going 
to cheat them out of some work credits. On project after project fac- 
tions arose around strong leaders or around favorite community man- 
agers. In several projects dissident homesteaders had to be evicted, 
leaving their remaining friends dissatisfied. Yet, by 1942, in the sub- 
sistence homesteads projects retained by the Farm Security Administra- 
tion, there had been a turnover of only 18 per cent, and much of this 
because of new employment. 58 Even though the new communities 
were not at all like heaven, they apparently were better than any- 
thing else available. 

People usually dislike rapid change and feel resentment toward any- 
one who tries to reform or even to educate them. The farmer on the 
rural project disliked the college expert who told him how to farm. 
To many the close supervision and rigid limitations on individual in- 
itiative were galling. The endless investigations and inspections were 
also resented. News reporters and sociologists joined the frequent 
inspectors from Washington in asking about things that the home- 
steader often considered only his own business. When three different 
investigators visited Westmoreland on three successive days, the Wash- 
ington office received an urgent request that investigators be sent to- 
gether in groups rather than one a day, for they were disrupting normal 
activities. 59 Even the work of the Special Skills Section in bringing 
culture and recreation was not always welcomed by the settlers. Some 
special recordings sent to Penderlea for a special gathering were re- 
turned with a request for hillbilly music, which the homesteaders 
preferred. At Westmoreland the educational director suggested that 
special-skills people be sent only at the request of the Education 
and Training Section in order "that we do not burden the communities 
with more advantages than they can absorb at one time." 60 Not even 
a small community can be built in a day. 

57 M. L. Wilson to Eleanor Roosevelt, Aug. 25, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

58 Report on Subsistence Homesteads, 1942, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

59 Agnes King Inglis to E. E. Agger, Sept. 26, 1935, ibid. m Ibid. 


Society Reasserts 
Its Claims 

THE Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Admin- 
istration faced almost insurmountable difficulties in experimentally 
creating a new society within the bounds of their new communities, 
perhaps largely because of the individualistic nature of their clients. 
They faced an even more difficult task in maintaining the major features 
of this new society in the midst of the old society, which, with re- 
turning prosperity, was regaining much of its past popularity. The 
attempt to preserve the distinguishing attributes of the New Deal com- 
munities is bound up in the long controversy over their disposition and 
in the wartime struggle of the Farm Security Administration to maintain 
its very existence in the face of almost overwhelming opposition. In 
the course of these controversies the communities, once so loved and 
cherished by their planners and creators, became, in the minds of many 
congressmen, disreputable, heretical, and exceedingly wasteful symbols 
of misguided idealism or even of ideological treason. 

In many of the subsistence homesteads and rural rehabilitation com- 
munities, the Resettlement Administration inherited definite commit- 
ments to eventual homeownership. The Resettlement Administration 
decided to honor all these commitments, but at the same time wanted 
to preserve the aims and objectives of the communities. 1 In January, 

1 Edward Stone to E. E. Agger, Nov. 7, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives. 


Old Society Reasserts Claims 215 

1936, Tugwell secured Roosevelt's approval of a plan to turn the 
completed subsistence homesteads communities over to local, co- 
operative homestead associations made up of the homesteaders resid- 
ing in the communities. The association would hold title to the land, 
issue purchase or lease contracts to individual homesteaders, select 
future settlers, collect all payments, maintain the property, and make 
all tax and insurance payments. In most cases the association would 
sell the individual homesteads by means of a long purchase contract, 
running for forty years at 3 per cent interest. Included in monthly pay- 
ments would be fees for management, repairs and upkeep, taxes, and 
a reserve fund. The co-operative property would be surrendered to 
co-operative associations, whose membership would be open to all 
homesteaders. The homestead association, before accepting title to 
the property, would have to sign a management contract with the 
Resettlement Administration, giving that agency or its successors the 
right to supervise the management of the community until it was com- 
pletely liquidated at the end of forty years. 2 This method of disposi- 
tion seemed certain to solve local tax problems, to give the home- 
steader the satisfaction of working toward eventual ownership, to 
insure community control over all land use for forty years, and to 
guarantee the continued supervision and direction of community life 
by the Resettlement Administration. 

Before conveying the communities to homestead associations, the 
Resettlement Administration decided to adopt a sale policy based on 
the ability of homesteaders to pay, on a reasonable appraisal of the proj- 
ect, and, only lastly, on the original cost to the government. In no case 
was the sale price of an individual homestead to exceed 25 per cent of 
the client's income, the appraisal figure, or the original cost to the 
government. Yet, despite this, Tugwell predicted that there would "be 
no serious gap between the evaluation of the property for conveyance 
and its cost." 3 This proved to be a tragically false prediction. 

In 1936 and 1937, thirteen communities (Houston, Beauxart, Dal- 
worthington, Three Rivers, and Wichita Gardens in Texas, El Monte 
and San Fernando Homesteads in California, Longview Homesteads 

2 Policy Statement signed by Tugwell and approved by President Roosevelt, Jan. 
18, 1936, ibid.; U.S. Senate, Resettlement Administration Program, Document no. 
213, 74th Cong., 2d Sess., 1936, pp. 23-24. 

3 U.S. Senate, Resettlement Administration Program, Document no. 213, 74th 
Cong., 1st Sess., 1928, p. 23. 

216 Tomorrow a 'New World 

in Washington, Decatur Homesteads in Indiana, Hattiesburg, Magno- 
lia, and Tupelo Homesteads in Mississippi, and Phoenix Homesteads in 
Arizona) were transferred to homestead associations. 4 These were all 
industrial homesteads and included the most prosperous and suc- 
cessful of all the New Deal communities. The individual homesteader 
in the conveyed communities had an opportunity, if he wished, to enter 
a forty-year purchase contract for his homestead. If he later decided 
to move, he was required to offer his homestead to the association, 
which could repossess it by paying him the equivalent of his accumu- 
lated equity. This purchase contract was known as tenure "A." For 
those not desiring to purchase a homestead, a tenure "B" or lease con- 
tract was used, with the cost of the monthly lease based on the same 
considerations as the sale price. When a new homesteader moved into 
a community, the association usually required a year's trial period 
under lease before granting a purchase contract. If a purchaser de- 
faulted on payments, he could use his accumulated equity to pay rent 
on a tenure "B" contract, remaining on the project until his equity was 
exhausted. 5 

Since the conveyance price usually fell well below the original cost, 
the transference of whole communities to homestead associations in- 
vited new accusations of financial irresponsibility on the part of the 
community agencies. El Monte and San Fernando Homesteads, alone 
among the subsistence homesteads communities, sold at a price equal 
to cost, and Longview almost broke even. On the other hand, Dal- 
worthington Gardens, which cost $325,712.35, was sold for $150,000, 
and Hattiesburg Homesteads, which cost $75,648.78, was sold for 
$49,720. The first twelve communities sold to homestead associations 
cost $2,102,762.44 and sold for $1,700,232, or for about 81 per cent 
of their cost. 6 In view of the community facilities, such as roads and 
schools, which are usually provided by local governments and not as 
the direct expense of the purchaser of a home, this record was satisfac- 
tory, or even excellent. But these communities, built by contract under 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, were by far the most in- 
expensive ones. Even as they were transferred, surveys at Arthurdale 

4 Edward Stone to Earle P. Zack, July 6, 1938, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

5 U.S. Senate, Resettlement Administration Program, pp. 23-24. 

6 Select Committee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Hearings on the 
Farm Security Administration, 78th Cong., 1st Sess., 1943-1944, pp. 1118-1119. 

Old Society Reasserts Claims 217 

indicated a probable sale price of only 21.3 per cent of cost, and the 
probable sale price of Jersey Homesteads, which cost $3,402,382.27, was 
estimated at only $924,022, or 27.1 per cent of the investment. For 
twenty-six homestead projects the estimated liquidation price was 
43.1 per cent of cost, meaning a government subsidy of 56.9 per cent. 7 

Only one project (Bankhead Farms in Alabama) was conveyed to 
a homestead association between 1937 and 1942, and one project 
(Tupelo Homesteads) was turned over to the National Park Service 
as part of the Natchez Trace Parkway. In 1942 the last associations were 
formed at Austin, Duluth, Granger, Mount Olive, Palmerdale, and 
Greenwood Homesteads, making a total of nineteen. Under congres- 
sional pressure to dispose of all the communities as quickly as possible, 
the Farm Security Administration, in 1942, began plans for conveying 
several other communities that had been retained because of economic 
difficulties, since at some projects the monthly income of homesteaders 
was hardly sufficient to pay local taxes. On these projects the home- 
steaders had continued to pay monthly rents while awaiting a chance 
to purchase their homes. Three communities, Cumberland, McComb, 
and Lake County Homesteads, were opened for sale to individual 
homesteaders, with the Farm Security Administration retaining title 
until the fulfillment of the forty-year purchase contracts. The green- 
belt towns and Ironwood, Cahaba, and Aberdeen Gardens were all 
being prepared for conveyance to special leasing associations. 8 

Of the homestead projects conveyed to associations only two, Mag- 
nolia and Hattiesburg in Mississippi, completely defaulted in their pay- 
ments. On fifteen other projects the cumulative delinquency was only 
0.9 per cent from 1936 to May 1, 1940. There had been a 35.9 per cent 
turnover, but mainly among tenure "B" clients. On the nonconveyed 
projects there was only an 18 per cent turnover, with new employ- 
ment constituting the most important reason. The temporary licensing 
agreements averaged only $16.99 a month. To February 28, 1941, 
there had been a delinquency of only 3.9 per cent on the monthly 
rentals. 9 With a consolidation of all New Deal housing agencies in 

7 Enclosure, H. W. Truesdell to E. G. Arnold, May 28, 1937, R.G. 96, National 

8 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 1032; "Disposition of Proj- 
ects," n.d., R.G. 96, National Archives; a memorandum for J. O. Walker, March 16, 
1941, ibid. 

9 "Report on Subsistence Homesteads," n.d., R.G. 96, National Archives. 

218 Tomorrow a 'New World 

1942, Roosevelt, by an executive order dated October 1, 1942, trans- 
ferred all the Farm Security housing in which the family did not earn 
its principal income from farming to the Federal Public Housing 
Authority in the National Housing Agency. 10 This took from the Farm 
Security Administration all the homestead associations and all the 
nonrural colonies, plus several undeveloped subsistence homesteads 
plots. Transferred to the new agency were twenty-eight subsistence 
homesteads communities, the three greenbelt cities, one suburban 
resettlement project, and two Federal Emergency Relief Administra- 
tion communities. The Farm Security Administration retained twenty- 
six Federal Emergency Relief Administration rural communities, three 
rural subsistence homesteads communities, and all the rural resettle- 
ment communities. 

For the rural communities Tugwell early decided on a temporary 
policy of leasing, with purchase details to be worked out later. Some 
of the inherited rural communities were first leased for a set monthly 
or yearly cash rent, but at Woodlake the Federal Emergency Relief 
Administration had initiated a system of payment in kind. In 1937, 
carrying this idea further, the Resettlement Administration adopted 
a "D" type lease for some of its co-operative farms. This lease, which 
was later extended to most of the rural colonies, resembled the tra- 
ditional share-cropping system, with rentals based on a set percentage 
of the crops. In 1938 a lease and purchase contract was readied, featur- 
ing a variable payment plan based on production and the ability of the 
client to pay. Yet, until 1940, the Farm Security Administration did 
not issue a single purchase contract in its rural colonies, arguing that 
the tenants were still under trial leases to determine their qualifica- 
tions for landownership. In 1940, under congressional pressure, the 
Farm Security Administration began issuing these lease and purchase 
agreements in most of its nonco-operative type rural colonies. By 
1942 approximately 2,586 units in either the rural communities or the 
scattered farms had been sold to individuals. 11 

10 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1944, 78th Cong., 
1st Sess., 1943, pp. 988-991. 

11 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration, Report of the 
Administrator of the FSA, 1938 (Washington, 1938), pp. 21-22; House Agricul- 
tural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hearings on the Agricul- 
tural Appropriation Bill for 1941, 76th Cong., 3d Sess., 1940, p. 970, and Hearings 

Old Society Reasserts Claims 219 

The lease and purchase contract was really a promise of future 
sale. The farmer agreed on a certain price for his homestead, with 
the first one-fourth of this price to be paid by a designated percentage 
of the cash income from his crops. The percentage could be changed 
by each alteration of his well-supervised farm and home plan. Title 
and all rights to the land remained in the Farm Security Administra- 
tion. The government pledged that, when the variable payments be- 
yond interest, insurance, and taxes had amounted to one-fourth of the 
purchase price, the purchaser would be granted a quitclaim deed 
conveying the property to him, but with all the mineral rights reserved 
to the government. At that time the purchaser would execute a promis- 
sory note, agreeing to pay the balance of the purchase price within 
forty years at 3 per cent interest. He also had to execute a mortgage 
as security for the indebtedness. The note and mortgage were to be 
"in such form, and contain such conditions and covenants, consistent 
with the provisions of this contract, as the Government may prescribe, 
including a provision prohibiting the sale, lease or other disposition 
of the property without the consent of the Government." 12 Although 
this contract promised a deed after the indefinite period required 
for an accumulation of the first 25 per cent of the purchase price, it 
left the client completely under Farm Security Administration super- 
vision for this indefinite period and, after the issuance of the deed, 
under whatever controls and restrictions the Farm Security Administra- 
tion might insert into the mortgage. 13 The client could not hope for 
complete control of his land until a minimum of forty-one years from 
the time he entered the original agreement, and only then if he were 
so fortunate as to accumulate the first 25 per cent of the purchase 
price in one year. This long waiting period followed, in many cases, 
the five years or more that the client had already been on the project 
as a tenant. Few adult men could really look forward to full owner- 
ship within their lifetime. Even if they did live until the complete 
fulfillment of their contract, they still did not own the mineral rights. 
This contract insured Tugwell's desire for a long relationship between 

on the Agricultural Appropriation Bill for 1942, pt. n, 77th Cong., 1st Sess., 1941, 
pp. 112-118, 258-259. 

12 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 90, see also pp. 8690. 

13 Farm Security Administration Instruction 555.5, Oct., 1942, R.G. 96, National 

220 Tomorrow a New World 

the government and individual. It also insured the physical plan of 
the community against early alteration. 

Even as the Farm Security Administration began to dispose of 
its rural colonies, its whole program was under attack. The fight over 
the abolition of the Farm Security Administration was one of the most 
bitter domestic issues during World War II. It was a fight that was 
related to congressional opposition to the whole New Deal reform 
program. This particular fight had been shaping up ever since the Farm 
Security Administration was created in September, 1937, presum- 
ably to carry out the provisions of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant 
Act. The Bankhead-Jones Act not only set up the new tenant-purchase 
program but provided for a rehabilitation program and for the com- 
pletion of the resettlement communities. The intent of Congress was 
relatively clear. The Farm Security Administration could continue the 
rehabilitation program but only by securing an appropriation under 
the Bankhead-Jones Act. It could complete the existing resettlement 
communities but could not begin new ones. In fact, the Bankhead-Jones 
Act did not grant the authority to purchase land. What actually oc- 
curred, however, is that the Resettlement Administration received a 
new name, added the tenant-purchase program to its already large 
repertory of activities, and continued very much as it had before the 
Bankhead-Jones measure. It continued to secure its rehabilitation funds 
from relief appropriations and to administer them according to ex- 
ecutive orders rather than the provisions of the Bankhead-Jones Act. 
It not only completed resettlement communities but added extra 
land to many of them. It was the Farm Security Administration that 
initiated many of the experiments in co-operative farming and all the 
experiments with ninety-nine-year leases. The Farm Security Admin- 
istration was slow in making even the initial steps toward liquidating 
the community projects and, when it did so in 1940, affixed such 
terms as would insure a continued government interest in the projects 
for over fifty years. 

With no authority to purchase land for additional community proj- 
ects, the Farm Security Administration, beginning in 1938, formed land- 
leasing and land-purchasing associations to which it lent rehabilita- 
tion funds. These associations, composed of families who could not 
qualify for regular community projects, used their loans to lease or, 
in four cases, to purchase large tracts of land for subleasing to in- 

Old Society Reasserts Claims 221 

dividual members. This group rehabilitation led to the creation of 
about thirty-five close settlements that differed from other New Deal 
communities only insofar as the Farm Security Administration did 
not actually itself make any of the improvements or construct any 
community facilities. But its funds were used. These associations were 
a means of continuing, in essence, the land-purchase and community- 
building programs of the old Resettlement Administration. The Farm 
Security Administration officials believed that the associations offered 
security of tenure, higher living standards, savings through co-operative 
activity, education in co-operative ideas, simplified Farm Security 
Administration supervision, larger bargaining powers with landlords, 
and better rental terms. 14 In the beginning days of World War II the 
Farm Security Administration temporarily expanded this land-leasing 
and land-purchase program by administering a relocation program 
for people displaced by war preparations. To do this the Farm Security 
Administration formed relocation corporations which began the pur- 
chasing of large tracts of land until a ruling of the Comptroller Gen- 
eral stopped the practice. These programs, even if strictly legal, 
seemed to be against the spirit and intent of the Bankhead- Jones Act. 
Both the Farm Security Administration program and its personnel 
were such as to gain many enemies. The Farm Security Administra- 
tion, inheritor of Tugwell's distinct class feelings, was a militant de- 
fender of the small farmer and laborer. It constantly stressed the lack 
of economic and social justice for the small farmers who had no real 
stake in the American democracy, contrasting them with the large 
farmers who were becoming more and more separated from those at 
the bottom. 15 At a time when industrial labor was receiving many 
gains, the Farm Security Administration almost became a labor union 
for small farmers, tenants, and farm laborers. The leaders in the Farm 
Security Administration were enthusiastically devoted to their task of 
helping the exploited farm classes. Their over-all philosophy tended 
to be collectivist, with a distrust of the ideas of the capitalists and of 
the kindred ideas of the middle-class farmers. Ideological and economic 

14 Senate Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1944, 78th Cong., 1st 
Sess., 1943, pp. 742-744. 

15 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration, Report of the 
Administrator of the FSA, 1941 (Washington, 1941), pp. 1-2; Grant McConnell, 
The Decline of Agrarian Democracy (Berkeley, 1953), pp. 89-93. 

222 Tomorrow a New World 

differences led to controversy in Congress and throughout the country. 

The Farm Security Administration aided the lowest and most helpless 
class of farmers, from the migrant laborers in California to Southern 
sharecroppers. But the cotton plantations, the truck farms, and the large 
orchards were dependent upon these very same cheap laborers and 
croppers that the Farm Security Administration was aiding through 
rehabilitation loans or resettlement opportunities. At the same time the 
loans and support to local co-operatives often threatened the profits 
of private processors and retailers. Thus those who feared competition 
or who were about to lose their cheap labor were naturally opposed 
to the Farm Security Administration. Many commercial farmers, aided 
by the Farm Bureau and by many extension agents, became the most 
bitter opponents of the Farm Security Administration. The Farm 
Security Administration, during World War II, controlled the place- 
ment of migrant farm laborers and exacted such strict conditions on 
wages, hours, sanitation, and housing as to anger the many plantation 
owners who much preferred to treat their laborers as they had in 
the past. Most vulnerable because of its sorry financial record in many 
of the resettlement projects and because of its collective-farming ex- 
periments, the Farm Security Administration was accused of useless 
extravagance and of harboring communist ideas. On the other side, 
the Farm Security Administration was defended by many of its clients, 
by the labor unions, and by the National Farmers' Union. These 
groups pointed accusing fingers at the "economic royalists" who wished 
to hold the low-income farmers in a system of peonage. 

The controversy soon became one of emotion and of bitterness, with 
some people believing that the attack on the Farm Security Admin- 
istration was in the interest of saving American freedom, whereas 
others believed that it meant the beginning of a return to slavery or 
to an acceptance of a form of "Fascism." 16 For example, a Farm 
Bureau report on the Farm Security Administration urged that the 
farm program for low-income families be placed in a new agency in 
order to "save the low-income farmer from political exploitation and 
save American agriculture from collectivism and Government land- 

16 Alfred W. Griswold, Farming and Democracy (New Haven, 1952), p. 170; 
Oren Stephens, "FSA Fights for Its Life," Harpers Magazine, CLXXXVI ( 1942- 
1943), 479-480; "Pillar of Democracy: The Meaning of the Fight Against the 
FSA," Commonweal, XXXIX (1943-1944), 225-228. 

Old Society Reasserts Claims 223 

lordism," and Ray P. Chase, a Minnesota attorney and former con- 
gressman, argued that the Farm Security Administration was using 
taxpayers' money "to destroy American business" while its leaders 
"preach the doctrine of Communism but lack the courage to carry a 
card." 17 On the other side, the legislative representative of the National 
Farmers' Union, Russell Smith, was firmly convinced that "the Farm 
Security idea is a good idea, indeed, that it is an idea basic to the 
attainment of complete democracy in this country." 18 In a prepared 
report the Emergency Committee for Food Production declared that 
the opposition to the Farm Security Administration arose because it 
"had begun to wreck the dream of factory farmers for a rural serfdom 
and agricultural monopoly." Thus, the efforts to kill the Farm Security 
Administration, according to the report, "strike at the heart of democ- 
racy itself and must be opposed by the people of America." 19 

The Farm Security Administration first faced serious congressional 
criticism over the liquidation of the community projects which, though 
only a small aspect of the whole farm security program, were always 
at the center of any controversy, probably because they were the most 
embarrassing part of the Farm Security Administration's activities. 
As early as 1938, the first year after the creation of the Farm Security 
Administration, Congress explicitly appropriated money for the "liqui- 
dation and management" of the resettlement projects. But no appreci- 
able liquidation occurred. In debates over another appropriation in 
1939, Will W. Alexander, Administrator of the Farm Security Admin- 
istration, was called an "off-color politician" by Representative Edward 
E. Cox of Georgia. 20 Representative Guy L. Moser of Pennsylvania 
declared that the old Resettlement Administration had pounced upon 
the Bankhead- Jones Act like a vulture, while "wandering minstrels 
and scavengers" continued to infest farm communities with "gratuitous 
advice by childless women who never kept house themselves." 21 In 
1939 Congress refused to allot further funds for the completion of 
communities and, in 1940, cut off all loans to new co-operatives. 22 By 

17 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 802, 1867. 
lbid., p. 1495. lbid., p. 1507. 

20 C.R., 76th Cong., 1st Sess., 1939, p. 3456; ibid., 77th Cong., 2d Sess., 1942, 
p. 4304. 

21 Ibid., 76th Cong., 1st Sess., 1939, p. 3457. 

22 House Committee on Appropriations, Appropriations for Work Relief, Relief, 
and for Loans and Grants for Public Works Projects, Fiscal Year 1940, Report 

224 Tomorrow a New World 

1941 Representative Harold D. Cooley of North Carolina was seeking 
authority for a full congressional investigation of the Farm Security 
Administration. 23 

The real struggle over the Farm Security Administration began in 
1942. In that year the Farm Bureau officially went on record against 
the Farm Security Administration, and the Farm Bureau head, Edward 
O'Neal, testified against it in the Appropriations Committeee hearings. 
Two Southern senators, Harry F. Byrd and Kenneth D. McKellar, both 
of whom opposed the extravagance and the collectivist experiments 
of the Farm Security Administration, led the Senate attack. McKellar 
bluntly stated of the Farm Security Administration's Administrator: 
"I think Mr. Baldwin is a Communist." 24 Byrd, who used lengthy 
statistics to prove the extravagance of the Farm Security Administra- 
tion, attacked its paternalism, its defiance of Congress, and its failure 
to liquidate the communities. He believed the homestead associations 
were ruses to conceal continued governmental control. 25 In the House, 
Representative Malcolm C. Tarver of Georgia, chairman of the House 
Committee on Agriculture, belabored the Farm Security Administra- 
tion for its collective farms and stated that further retention of the 
community projects would place the Farm Security Administration in 
open defiance of Congress. 26 As a result of this attack, Congress forbade 
further expenditures for collective farms, land purchase, and migratory 
camps and requested a rapid liquidation of all remaining communities. 27 

In the early part of 1943 Representative Cooley finally secured the 
passage of a resolution calling for a complete investigation of the Farm 
Security Administration. He justified the investigation on the basis that 
the original Resettlement Administration was created with the broadest 
power ever conferred upon a United States Government agency, that 

no. 833, 76th Cong., 1st Sess., 1939, p. 16; U.S. House of Representatives, Activi- 
ties of the Farm Security Administration, Report no. 1430, 78th Cong., 2d Sess., 
1944, p. 50. 

^C.R., 77th Cong., 1st Sess., 1941, p. 9458. 

24 Ibid., 77th Cong., 2d Sess., 1942, pp. 2029, 4283. * Ibid., p. 4306. 

27 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1943, pt. n, pp. 197- 
198, 255-259. 

27 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Commitee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1944, p. 992; U.S. 
House of Representatives, Activities of the Farm Security Administration, p. 51; 
C.R., 77th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 2427. 

Old Society Reasserts Claims 225 

the Farm Security Administration had largely ignored the Bankhead- 
Jones Act, that the existence of collective farms and ninety-nine-year 
leases threatened the traditional land policy of the United States, and 
that the land-leasing and land-purchasing associations were means 
of evading congressional restrictions on land purchase. Cooley stressed 
the fact that, with the sudden accretion of federal activity, the Congress 
did not have the time or the ability to be fully advised on all federal 
agencies, and this apparently had permitted the Farm Security Ad- 
ministration to violate congressional intentions. 28 

Representative Cooley headed the select committee which thor- 
oughly investigated every aspect of the Farm Security Administration. 
The lengthy investigation aroused fear among Farm Security Admin- 
istration supporters that Cooley maliciously desired the death of their 
agency. The American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial 
Organizations, the National Farmers' Union, the National Council of 
Churches, the National Catholic Welfare Council, and President Roose- 
velt all came out in support of the Farm Security Administration. On 
the other hand, the Farm Bureau and organized business groups, both 
of which opposed the Farm Security Administration and wanted it 
abolished, found no sure ally in Cooley, who sincerely believed in aid 
to the small farmer and who wished the tenant-purchase and re- 
habilitation programs to be continued. Based on his published state- 
ments in the thorough and extensive hearings of 1943 and 1944, Cooley, 
a Southern Democrat, was very sympathetic to the aspirations of the 
small farmers and particularly to their desires to achieve homeowner- 
ship and economic independence. He hated the idea of bureaucracy 
and was especially angry at the Farm Security Administration for its 
defiance of Congress. He was strongly individualistic, believing in the 
traditional land policies and in governmental thrift. He disliked ex- 
tensive paternalism and was against any tendency toward collectivism. 
But at the same time he distrusted the motives of the large farmers 
and of businessmen in opposing the Farm Security Administration, 
seeing behind their opposition a good bit of self-interest. 

The congressional hearings revolved around the committee members' 
attack upon the extravagance, the philosophy, and the community- 
building activities of the Farm Security Administration and the counter- 
ing defense of the officials of the Farm Security Administration, which 

2S C.R., 78th Cong., 1st Sess., 1943, pp. 2185-2186, 2192, 2194. 

226 Tomorrow a New World 

was based upon the merit of the rehabilitation and tenant-purchase 
programs. The committee members tended to blame most of the 
community projects on Tugwell. They even tried to connect these 
projects and his collectivist philosophy with his pre-New Deal trip 
to Russia. 29 Involved in their attack was a distrust of intellectuals 
and theorists, who lacked a "hard-boiled" understanding of people. 
The congressmen believed that Ph.D.'s too often evolved "these theories 
the average man may not be able to quite formulate and set in mo- 
tion." 30 The committee members were astounded at the financial loss 
on some of the projects, at the close supervision, at the attempts to 
insure a lengthy control over the communities by the government, 
and at the amount of industry sponsored on the projects. Cooley was 
constantly angered to learn the extent to which the Farm Security 
Administration had departed from congressional intentions, avowing 
that the Farm Security Administration officials "have been doing too 
much thinking for themselves and have not been following the policies 
laid down by Congress." 31 

The most telling criticisms were leveled at the collective farms and 
the long leases. These were the most obvious breaks with the old society 
and the ones most disliked by the congressmen. Representative John 
W. Flannigan, Jr., of Virginia, a member of the committee, said: "It 
looks to me that a studied effort has been made ... to finally abolish 
fee ownership of land in this country." He declared fee simple owner- 
ship to be "one of the fundamentals in the establishment of this coun- 
try" and tried desperately to place responsibility for the "un-American 
scheme of getting around fee simple ownership." 32 Cooley believed 
the issue of vital importance "because it involves a great principle; 
it goes deep into the traditional land policy of this country." 33 Through 
it all Calvin B. Baldwin, Administrator of the Farm Security Adminis- 
tration, was a rather ineffective, overly submissive, and evasive witness. 
He refused to defend the community and co-operative projects, ad- 
mitting that none of them "should be continued." 34 The whole Farm 
Security Administration controversy came at a time when the Roose- 
velt Administration, busily devoted to the task of winning a war, was 

29 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 279. 

30 Ibid., pp. 185, 269. * Ibid., pp. 36-39, 44, 493-495. 

83 Ibid., pp. 20-21, 55. ** Ibid., p. 21. "Ibid., p. 455. 

Old Society Reasserts Claims 227 

not willing to take a strong stand in support of the Farm Security 
Administration program at the risk of offending a conservative Con- 
gress. The embarrassing communities and other aspects of the Farm 
Security Administration were sacrificed without a really strong effort 
in their defense. 

In its final report the Cooley Committee indicted the Farm Security 
Administration on several counts. It was accused of starting collective 
farms, stretching executive orders, disobeying the intent of the 
Bankhead-Jones Act, using ninety-nine-year leases to prevent instead 
of encourage landownership, colonizing, regimenting, and too closely 
supervising its clients by regulating every detail in their lives, uproot- 
ing families, deceiving clients with false promises of ownership and a 
"promised land" in a community, granting loans to unqualified bor- 
rowers, obeying the President's Committee on Farm Tenancy rather 
than Congress, backing industrial enterprises in competition with 
private business, and permitting an enlarged and inefficient admin- 
istrative organization. 35 But despite this, the Cooley Committee rec- 
ommended that the tenant-purchase and rehabilitation programs be 
continued in a new agency, a Farmers' Home Corporation, which 
would absorb both the Farm Security Administration and the Farm 
Credit Administration. A bill to this effect was introduced into Con- 

The Farmers' Home Corporation bill, which was first introduced in 
1944 and, after much delay, eventually enacted in 1946, abolished the 
Farm Security Administration. It provided for a Farmers' Home Cor- 
poration to regulate tenant-purchase and rehabilitation loans. After 
six months for study, the corporation was to liquidate the remaining 
resettlement projects. It was to have only eighteen months to dispose 
of all this property. Further loans to co-operative associations were 
strictly forbidden. 36 The new corporation was to have no authority to 
purchase land and no basis for paternalistic supervision, and it was 
required to render annual accounts to Congress. The undeveloped 
subsistence homesteads property turned over to the Federal Public 

35 U.S. House of Representatives, Activities of the Farm Security Administration, 
pp. 1-19. 

36 House Committee on Agriculture, Hearings on Farmers' Home Corporation 
Act of 1944, 78th Cong., 2d Sess., 1944, pp. 1-9. 

228 Tomorrow a New World 

Housing Authority was to be repossessed and immediately sold. The 
most unfair criticism of the Farm Security Administration was con- 
tained in the minority report on the Farmers' Home Corporation Act. 
Tugwell was falsely accused of filling his agency with "thousands of 
Utopian planners who were 'hell bent' on remaking the United States 
into a Communist State." They argued that the Cooley Committee had 
"uncovered hundreds of communistic projects." 37 

Even as the Cooley Committee debated the eventual fate of the 
Farm Security Administration, the various communities were bene- 
fiting from the wartime boom. In many of the projects the wages of 
homesteaders soared above earlier limitations. Even the stranded 
communities became more prosperous, with many of the coal mines 
reopening. The Farm Security Administration was unsuccessful in an 
attempt at procuring decentralized defense industry for some of the 
projects, but this did not mean any shortage of jobs. As prosperity 
returned to the homesteaders, there was an increasing tendency to 
neglect the subsistence plots, either leaving them idle, leasing them, 
or hiring laborers to work them. 

The Cooley investigation led to many changes in the Farm Secu- 
rity Administration. In 1943 the lease and purchase contracts were 
replaced by quitclaim deeds with approximately the same restrictions 
and the same variable payment plan already being used in the tenant- 
purchase program. In the same year the House Appropriations Com- 
mittee seriously considered turning the Farm Security Administration 
loans over to the Farm Credit Administration and its supervisory 
activities over to the Extension Service as a method of getting rid of 
its distrusted leadership and philosophy. 38 Baldwin, much harassed 
from all sides, was hindered in his liquidation of projects by a re- 
quirement of the Solicitor of the Department of Agriculture that the 
projects be sold in such a manner as to help in the rehabilitation of 
needy families, since the original appropriations had been made for 
this purpose. This prevented an open-auction method of disposition. 
Baldwin himself was reluctant to dispose of the projects at such a 

37 U.S. House of Representatives, Farmers' Home Corporation Act of 1944, 
Report no. 1747, 78th Cong., 2d Sess., 1944, pp. 2-3, 56. 

38 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 289-291; Senate Agricul- 
tural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hearings on Agricultural 
Department Appropriation Bill for 1944, pp. 264-266. 

Old Society Reasserts Claims 229 

rate as to harm or dispossess the homesteaders or to cause the govern- 
ment any greater loss than absolutely necessary. But despite these 
feelings, he promised in February, 1943, to be rid of the co-operative 
projects by June 30, 1943, which proved to be an impossibility. 39 

In November, 1943, Baldwin and his assistant, George S. Mitchell, 
resigned from the Farm Security Administration to join Sidney Hill- 
man in the Congress of Industrial Organizations' Political Action 
Committee, lending some ammunition to the conservative attack on 
the radicalism of the Farm Security Administration. Baldwin was re- 
placed by a former North Carolina congressman, Frank Hancock, 
who immediately appointed a new staff and secured the confidence 
of Congress. This change in leadership really marked the end of the 
Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration 
programs as initiated by Tugwell and continued by his successors. It 
meant that Congress had, at last, gained control over the policies of 
the Farm Security Administration. It meant that experimentation and 
broad attempts at institutional reform were ended. Hancock himself 
signified, at least in the eyes of Congress, a shift from idealism to 
practicality, from extravagance to economy, from dangerous radical- 
ism to safe moderation. He immediately reduced the personnel of 
the Farm Security Administration and began studying methods for 
disposing of the resettlement projects. 

Hancock found that many of the former sales of homesteads to 
project clients were merely paper transactions, since the clients were 
already so deeply in debt to the Farm Security Administration that 
they could never pay out. He slowed the process of sales temporarily 
in order to place the liquidation on a sounder basis, incurring some 
wrath from Congress. By June 30, 1944, only 3,045 deeds had been 
granted on over 9,000 units. Eight co-operative associations were still 
in existence, with one refusing to cancel its ninety-nine-year lease, 
much to the embarrassment of the Farm Security Administration. 
Then the sales began at a rapid pace. As of January 1, 1945, only 
2,016 units were unsold; as of June 30, 1945, only 1,434 units. The 
units were sold, if possible, at fair market values to low-income fam- 

39 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1944, pp. 1036, 1088, 
and Hearings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1945, p. 989; 
Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 450. 

230 Tomorrow a New World 

ilies who met Bankhead-Jones standards. None were sold to people 
who had more debts than assets, and this eliminated many of the old 
homesteaders who had waited expectantly for a chance to purchase 
their homes. All units not salable to low-income clients were sold at 
public auction after a newspaper announcement. 40 

The liquidation of the rural projects, even though carried out at a 
time of inflated land values, resulted in a tremendous loss to the 
government. On many projects the liquidation price was only ap- 
proximately one-fourth of the total cost. Out of 8,945 units costing 
$70,775,970.42, the Farm Security Administration sold 7,276 units for 
only $29,245,446.59. At this same rate the total units would have sold 
for $35,953,755.08, or almost exactly one-half of cost. As examples, the 
average unit sale price on sixty-six units at Penderlea was $3,110, 
whereas each unit cost $11,633. Eighty-eight units at Gee's Bend sold 
for an average of $1,400, whereas they cost an average of over 
$4,000. 41 These high unit costs included the many community facil- 
ities which were not included in the sale prices. They also included 
all the losses incurred by the use of relief labor. 

In 1946, with the passage of the Farmers' Home Corporation Act, 
the Farm Security Administration was abolished and its functions 
transferred to a new agency, the Farmers' Home Administration, on 
November 1, 1946. This new agency had specific authorizations and 
instructions for the disposition of the few remaining homestead units. 
By April, 1947, only 290 units remained unsold, and this led Repre- 
sentative Everett M. Dirksen of Illinois to remark that, at last, "it 
appears that in the year ahead there is some likelihood of finally 
closing out Mr. Tugwell's lovely dream in the field of resettlement." 42 
By February, 1948, the last units were sold, but Tugwell's dream was 

40 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1945, pp. 197, 966, 
and Hearings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1946, pt. n, 
79th Cong., 1st Sess., 1945, pp. 516-517, 525-527, 564; U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, War Food Administration, Farm Security Administration, The Annual 
Report of the FSA, 1943-1944 (Washington, 1944), p. 14. 

41 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1947, 79th Cong., 2d 
Sess., 1946, pp. 1411-1419. 

42 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1948, pt. i, 80th Cong., 
1st Sess., 1947, pp. 1467-1468. 

Old Society Reasserts Claims 231 

far from an end. 43 Dirksen had forgotten about the greenbelt cities 
and the subsistence homesteads communities, which were still re- 
tained by the Federal Public Housing Authority. 

Under the Federal Public Housing Authority the nonfarming com- 
munities were liquidated as quickly as possible. Most of the super- 
visory activities of the Farm Security Administration were dropped, 
and the Federal Public Housing Authority was only a creditor agency 
for the nineteen homestead associations. Since many individuals had 
forty-year purchase contracts, Congress, in 1944, passed a law provid- 
ing that, on proffering the full payment of the purchase price, the 
homesteader had to receive a deed for his property, regardless of the 
lapse of time since he had purchased it. It also required a quitclaim 
deed with no reservations, conditions, or restrictions whatsoever. 44 
The Federal Public Housing Authority immediately began to issue 
deeds for those who wanted to complete their payments and, at the 
same time, granted releases from the mortgage lien to the homestead 
associations concerned. Congressional intent even prevented the Fed- 
eral Public Housing Authority from utilizing deed restrictions in 
order to avoid speculation, resale, commercial building, or added 
dwellings. This left no government control over the communities and 
ended all social experimentation. The communities were thrown open 
to real estate speculators unless the citizens themselves, without gov- 
ernment backing, took steps to ward them off through voluntary re- 
strictions or zoning laws. Even the mineral rights were restored to the 
homesteaders as quickly as possible. 45 

In 1944 the Federal Public Housing Authority sold two homestead 
associations, at Hattiesburg and Meridian, directly to the individual 
homesteaders because of continuous delinquencies on the part of the 
associations. In the same year Three Rivers Gardens was foreclosed 
and declared surplus property when it defaulted in its payments. The 
Tygart Valley Co-operative Association was sued for not keeping up 

43 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1949, pt. n, 80th Cong., 
2d Sess., 1948, p. 387. 

44 C.R., 78th Cong., 1st Sess., 1943, p. 1418; ibid., 78th Cong., 2d Sess., 1944, 
p. 6477. 

45 Paul W. Wager, One Foot on the Soil: A Study of Subsistence Homesteads 
in Alabama (Bureau of Public Administration at the University of Alabama, 1945), 
pp. 146-148. 

232 Tomorrow a New World 

its payments on its loans, and four co-operative stores were sold on 
other projects. 46 The Farm Security Administration had been accused 
of coddling its clients; no such accusation could be leveled against 
the Federal Public Housing Authority. Everything was businesslike 

At the end of World War II the Federal Public Housing Authority 
rushed its liquidation program. The hosiery mills at three projects 
were sold for $1,200,000, or 83 per cent of cost. On December 1, 1945, 
Westmoreland was sold to an association of its residents, insuring 
community control at this project. At least a few individual units had 
been sold on all but six projects, and 189 clear deeds had been granted 
to individuals on the homestead association projects. 47 In 1946 four 
homestead associations secured private financing and paid off their 
loans in full. Of 1,960 unsold units in the nonconveyed subsistence 
homesteads communities, over 1,000 units were sold in 1946. In sell- 
ing, all former commitments were honored, with clients on four 
projects receiving credit for rentals paid under the temporary licensing 
agreements. If no sales commitments had been made by the Farm 
Security Administration or predecessor agencies, the units were sold 
at fair market value and, if possible, to the resident homesteaders. 
The terms of sale required a 25 per cent down payment and the re- 
mainder over twenty years. If possible, common utilities were sold to 
associations organized by the homesteaders. 48 

In 1947 the remaining subsistence homesteads units and the three 
greenbelt cities became the responsibility of the Public Housing Ad- 
ministration in the newly formed Housing and Home Finance Agency. 
By the end of 1947 only 431 units in the subsistence homesteads proj- 
ects were unsold. By the end of 1948 they had been reduced to thirty. 
These represented units that had been sold to individuals by the 
Farm Security Administration under forty-year purchase terms. Under 
the contract and later legislation the government retained title until 
the final payment was made, at any time up to the forty years al- 

46 U.S. National Housing Agency, Third Annual Report of the National Housing 
Agency, January 1 to December 31, 1944 (Washington, 1945), p. 214. 

47 U.S. National Housing Agency, Fourth Annual Report of the National Hous- 
ing Agency, January 1 to December 31, 1945, pt. iv (Washington, 1946), pp. 

48 U.S. National Housing Agency, Fifth Annual Report of the National Housing 
Agency, January 1 to December 31, 1946 (Washington, 1947), pp. 256-257. 

Old Society Reasserts Claims 233 

lowed. Most purchasers of this type had paid in full or, under en- 
couragement from the Public Housing Administration, had secured 
other financing in order to fulfill the contract and receive title. The 
thirty mentioned had not done that and continued their payments 
under their old contract. By 1952 these thirty units had been reduced 
to eleven. 49 But for all practical purposes the liquidation of the sub- 
sistence homesteads projects was completed in 1948. At that time only 
the greenbelt towns remained in government ownership. Their liqui- 
dation will be discussed in a subsequent chapter. 

The finale to the story of the New Deal communities was written 
in an age ever farther removed from the insecurity and intellectual 
volatility of the depression. It was written in terms of reaction. The 
idealism and reforming zeal of the architects of the communities and 
the new society were repudiated. The revolution was over. The old 
society, slightly revamped, was again embraced, at least for a while. 
Traditional gods once again possessed men's minds and claimed their 
loyalties. Experimental communities became, except for their odd de- 
signs, ordinary communities. Most people soon forgot that Dyess, 
Arkansas, or Cahaba, Alabama, had been part of a large social ex- 
periment. Even Arthurdale and Hightstown, once so controversial, 
were remembered only because of the controversy. But a few people 
remembered, remembered well. They were the homesteaders, the liv- 
ing clay in the great exhibit. To them Cahaba and Dyess and Arthur- 
dale represented not only an experiment but their homes. To them 
the story of the New Deal communities was really a story of one 
community, their community. Thus, beyond ideas, policies, admin- 
istrators, bureaus, the story of the New Deal communities was really 
many varying stories one for each individual community. 

49 U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency, First Annual Report, 1947, pt. rv 
(Washington, 1948), p. 21, Second Annual Report, 1948 (Washington, 1949), 
p. 321, and Sixth Annual Report, 1952, pt. iv (Washington, 1953), p. 431. 

Part Three 


>t X 

Arthur dale An Experimental 

ON a cold night in early November, 1933, Clarence Pickett, executive 
secretary of the American Friends Service Committee and Assistant 
Administrator of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, Louis M. 
Howe, confidential secretary to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Mrs. Frank- 
lin D. Roosevelt entrained at Washington, D.C., for Fairmont, West 
Virginia. The next morning they were escorted by some American 
Friends Service Committee workers to the site of the old Arthur 
mansion at Reedsville, halfway between Fairmont and Morgantown. 
Here everything was confusion, for the first work on the first subsistence 
homesteads community was already under way. Mrs. Roosevelt and 
Louis Howe came with promises of rapid accomplishment; they met 
with architects, engineers, prospective builders, educational leaders, 
ministers, and planning officials. Before the day was over, Howe, in a 
burst of enthusiasm, placed a telephone order for fifty prefabricated 
cottages to be delivered to the homestead site within two weeks. Howe 
inspired the prospective homesteaders with assurances that, by Christ- 
mas, the first homestead cottages would be ready for occupancy. 
Clarence Pickett later wrote: "What one saw on that November day 
was the turning point in American concepts of public responsibility 
for suffering of citizens, wherever they might live and whatever might 


238 Tomorrow a New World 

be their circumstances." 1 Many other people, looking back to that 
November day, saw only the first and most serious mistake in a long 
series of mistakes at Arthurdale. 

The origin of Arthurdale, as many other of the subsistence home- 
steads communities, had predated the passage of the subsistence home- 
steads legislation. In 1931 the American Friends Service Committee 
began a program of child feeding in the bituminous coal fields; it grew, 
by 1932, into a broader rehabilitation program, with subsistence gar- 
dening and handicrafts. The worst conditions in the coal-mine areas 
were in West Virginia, where many mines had been virtually closed 
since 1920. Scott's Run, a term applied both to a creek near Morgan- 
town and to the mining settlements clustered close to its bank, became 
a symbol for the worst poverty and degradation of the company towns. 
Thus it was in the Scott's Run or Morgantown area that the Friends at- 
tempted their most extensive rehabilitation program. The committee, 
under the direction of Clarence Pickett, received help in its rehabilita- 
tion program from a Council of Social Agencies in Morgantown and 
from officials of West Virginia University, also located in Morgantown. 
Even as the subsistence homesteads program was being born in Wash- 
ington, these groups in Morgantown had prepared a prospectus for a 
Co-operative Self-Help Association, which was to settle stranded miners 
on subsistence farms throughout the state. The College of Agriculture 
at West Virginia University made a survey of available lands, and 
public-spirited citizens were asked to contribute to a $50,000 budget 
for the homestead efforts. 2 Among the local promoters of subsistence 
farming, the old Richard M. Arthur estate near Morgantown was much 
in mind as a possible site for subsistence farmsteads. This farm of 
approximately 1,200 acres had been used as an experimental farm by 
the College of Agriculture and contained fertile land. The estate, which 
was about to revert to the state for unpaid taxes, had been purchased 
in 1903 by Arthur, a Philadelphia merchant, from the Fairfax family, 
which had owned the farm since the Revolution. The area reputedly 
had been surveyed by George Washington. 

In the summer of 1933, as plans for subsistence homesteads were 
developed at Morgantown, Clarence Pickett interested Mrs. Roosevelt 

1 Clarence E. Pickett, For More than Bread (Boston, 1953), p. 47. 

2 Millard Milburn Rice, "Footnote on Arthurdale," Harper's Magazine, CLXXX 
(1939-1940), 411-413. 

Arthurdale 239 

in the plight of the miners and brought her to visit the Scott's Run 
area. Mrs. Roosevelt immediately became an enthusiastic supporter of 
the rehabilitation and subsistence homesteads program of the Friends. 
When the Division of Subsistence Homesteads was organized in August, 
Pickett became Assistant Administrator and headed the program for 
stranded miners. This, plus Mrs. Roosevelt's enthusiastic backing, in- 
sured a project somewhere in the Morgantown area. On October 12, 
1933, Ickes announced approval of plans for a project at Morgantown. 
Already the Division of Subsistence Homesteads had purchased the 
Arthur estate, which was surveyed by the College of Agriculture of 
West Virginia University and by the United States Department of 
Agriculture. The local sponsors, including university officials and the 
members of the Morgantown Council of Social Agencies, early submitted 
plans for a homestead community on the higher grounds of the estate, 
with community gardens in the low-lying meadows. This plan was 
rejected by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, which required 
the subsistence plots to be connected with the homes. The accepted 
plans called for 200 five-acre homestead plots, a community school, 
and a co-operative store. It was hoped that the first homesteads could 
be completed in the fall of 1933, possibly even by Thanksgiving. Bush- 
rod Grimes, a university extension agent and leader of the sponsors at 
the university, became the first project manager. 3 

In the fall of 1933 Arthurdale was a great dream, which somehow 
never became a complete reality. The dream involved a transition from 
hell to heaven for a group of stranded miners. From their huts clinging 
to a hillside above Scott's Run, from their lack of sanitary facilities, 
from the midst of malnutrition, disease, alcoholism, crime, delinquency, 
and high mortality, a fortunate few were to escape to pretty white 
homes, situated on small plats of farm land, surrounded by lawns, 
flowers, orchards, and fields. They were to enjoy regular meals, not 
through the bitter bread of charity, but through the food produced 
by their own hands. They were to have cows, poultry, root cellars, 
preserve closets, and plenty of air and sunshine. In their new com- 

3 Pickett, For More than Bread, p. 45; Wesley Stout, "The New Homesteaders," 
Saturday Evening Post, CCVII (Aug. 4, 1934), 62; Blair Bolles, "Resettling 
America," American Mercury, XXXIX (1936), 342; Henry I. Harriman, "A New 
Pattern for Industrial America," New York Times, Sept. 23, 1934, sec. 6, pp. 4-5; 
Millard Milburn Rice, "The Fuller Life at Reedsville," Nations Business, XXIV 
(May, 1936), 25. 

240 Tomorrow a New World 

munity they could "face to the sky instead of to the earth, to watch 
the long summer wane, and the color come on the mountains, and the 
snow fall and pass, and the redbud turn the hills to new splendor and 
the dogwood fleck them with white, instead of being shut away among 
the slag pile down in one of the Tiollows/ " 4 They were to have part- 
time employment in a government-sponsored Post Office factory, were 
to govern themselves through a town meeting, and were to find other 
sources of employment and a constructive use of leisure time in mul- 
tiple handicrafts. The community was to point the way to a new way of 
life, not just for the miners but for all America. It was to show the 
way to a solution of the problems of stranded populations, was to 
promote industrial decentralization, and was to show what social and 
economic planning might accomplish if given a chance. 

Yet, with all the dreams, there was very little co-ordinated planning 
for the community that was later to be called Arthurdale (it was at 
first known as the Reedsville Experimental Community). As at most 
of the subsistence homesteads communities, the ideas of the local 
sponsors did not always meet the approval of the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads. This was to be expected and, in most cases, led 
merely to delays in securing approval of project plans. At Arthurdale 
another element complicated any attempt at formalized administra- 
tion. Mrs. Roosevelt adopted Arthurdale as her own special project 
and became a sort of godmother to the miners of Scott's Run. Sharing 
her interest were Louis Howe and even President Roosevelt, although 
the latter was too busy to take an active part in the development of 
Arthurdale. Not so Howe, Mrs. Roosevelt, and many of her humani- 
tarian-minded friends. They occupied an indefinite, semiofficial position 
that brought Ickes, the administrator par excellence, to a point of near 
desperation. Although not employees of the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads, Mrs. Roosevelt and Howe made many of the important 
decisions and determined much of the policy at Arthurdale. Mrs. Roose- 
velt selected or approved most of the important personnel employed. 
The situation became one of administrative confusion, with Mrs. Roose- 
velt's humanitarian impulses often running counter to the administrative 
policies of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. Embarrassment 
followed embarrassment as far as the Division of Subsistence Home- 

4 William E. Brooks, "Arthurdale A New Chance," Atlantic Monthly, CLV 
(1935), 197. 

Arthurdale 241 

steads was concerned, although M. L. Wilson was much more tolerant 
of the situation than was Ickes. 

On the same day that Howe placed his telephone order for fifty 
prefabricated houses at a cost of $48,600, he also telephoned the 
War Department and asked for fifty mattresses, fifty pillows, and suf- 
ficient blankets and pillow cases, all to be delivered to Arthurdale by 
Monday, November 6. The War Department had no authority to turn 
this equipment over to another agency, but since Howe presumably 
spoke for the Commander in Chief they complied, listing the request 
as an emergency requirement and later demanding an accounting 
from a surprised Ickes. 5 At about the same time Mrs. Roosevelt's sec- 
retary presented an expense account to the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads for one of Mrs. Roosevelt's early trips to Arthurdale, 
throwing the Department of the Interior into a quandary, since they 
had no authority to pay for her transportation. 6 This was the only such 
request ever received from Mrs. Roosevelt and was probably made 
by her secretary without her knowledge, but it did show the problems 
occasioned by her sincere but unofficial endeavors. Actually Mrs. Roose- 
velt unselfishly spent thousands of dollars of her own money at Arthur- 

From November, 1933, to July, 1934, the history of Arthurdale was 
bound up in the long-deferred completion of the first fifty homes. As 
Howe's prefabricated cottages arrived, they proved utterly worthless 
for the intended use. The houses, ten by forty feet in size, were made 
of Oregon cedar frames, cedar siding, and, for the interior, building 
paper and fiberboard. Intended for vacation use, they were not at all 
suited for the cold winters at Arthurdale. Nevertheless they were 
bolted together and placed on prepared foundations. In January, Mrs. 
Roosevelt selected an architect from New York to come to Arthurdale 
and supervise the alteration of the prefabs. This marked the beginning 
of outside control and direction at the project, although the local spon- 
sors remained loyal to the project despite their having less and less 
voice in its direction. At Arthurdale new foundations were constructed 
and three sides of the prefabs pulled out and expanded. The basements 
remained a maze of foundations, while the walls of the prefab section 
of each house remained extrathin. As drastically revised and finally 

5 Oscar L. Chapman to Ickes, Nov. 17, 1933, R.G. 48, National Archives. 

6 H. M. Gilliam to Ebert K. Burlew, n.d., ibid. 

242 Tomorrow a New World 

completed in July, 1934, the first fifty homes included either four, five, 
or six rooms, basements, and baths. 7 

The first fifty homes were constructed by relief labor, with prospective 
homesteaders among those employed. The houses included copper 
plumbing, oversized air furnaces to heat the thin prefabs, and water 
from individual wells. Each home had an individual septic tank and, to 
protect the bacterial action of the tank from grease, a $37.50 grease trap 
that, because of the high cost, became one of the many famous follies of 
Arthurdale. Each homestead plot had a barn. The community buildings 
were grouped around a town square. They included an old Presbyterian 
church that was moved to the project and converted into a pretty 
community building, although its sides were knocked out to accommo- 
date a barbershop, forge, and furniture shop. A building originally 
planned for a power plant was converted into an administration build- 
ing. The old Arthur mansion was used as an early headquarters and 
as a meeting place. 

Not only did Mrs. Roosevelt select the architect to redesign the 
prefabricated homes, but she also helped plan the interior design and 
furniture for the homes which, after all the confusion and expense, 
were neat, pretty, and well landscaped on completion. Assisting Mrs. 
Roosevelt was Miss Nancy Cook, who had operated a small co-operative 
furniture plant with Mrs. Roosevelt at Hyde Park. Mrs. Roosevelt 
excused Howe's mistake in ordering the prefabricated homes and the 
resultant expense in redesigning them as a necessary part of a beginning 
experiment. She regarded Arthurdale as a social laboratory, where ex- 
perimentation could be carried on in house types, use of electricity, 
and use of government factories and in a new type of rural education. 
She deplored a tendency on the part of Ickes and others to use the 
subsistence homesteads appropriation to place as many people as pos- 
sible in inexpensive homes provided with only the bare necessities. She 
wanted Arthurdale to be an exhibit of a new way of life, visited by 
50,000 to 100,000 people each year. She desired a national research 
center in subsistence homesteading at West Virginia University, since 
Arthurdale would be the first project of its kind in the world and, as an 
experiment, would rival Radburn, New Jersey, in its importance. Be- 

7 Farm Security Administration, "Arthurdale: Final Report of Project Costs to 
June 30, 1939," in R.G. 96, National Archives; Stout, "The New Homesteaders," 
pp. 5-6. 

Arthurdale 243 

yond all that it would be the focal point for the regional planning and 
development of the Upper Monongahela valley. As such an experi- 
ment any early mistakes or excessive costs were justified. 8 

Mrs. Roosevelt's expensive plans for Arthurdale plagued Ickes. He 
felt that the first fifty homes appeared "a good deal like a joke" and had 
difficulties in restraining the expenditures of Mrs. Roosevelt's architect 
and the countless other planners and architects. At the same time a 
businesslike project manager appointed by Ickes was opposed by 
Mrs. Roosevelt and eventually forced out of his job. Mrs. Roosevelt 
publicly announced that the excessive costs of the Howe houses would 
be written off as an experiment and would "not be borne" by the 
homesteaders. 9 This came as a surprise to Ickes and again led to 
embarrassment, since it opened the way for new criticism of the sub- 
sistence homesteads program. Meanwhile Howe was constantly inter- 
fering with the plans of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. He 
had a scheme for an experimental power plant at Arthurdale which 
was to be used as a yardstick to measure private-power prices. All the 
experts consulted by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads said such 
a plant would cost at least $50,000 and would provide no saving, but 
Howe was never satisfied, arguing that the cost would not have exceeded 
$15,000. Howe, although occupying no official position in the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads, was chairman of the Electrical Committee 
for Arthurdale, one of the committees staffed by Arthurdale sponsors. 
He was vexed to learn that the first homes did not contain refrigerators. 
He wrote Pynchon: "God alone knows how refrigerators came to be 
eliminated. . . . Nothing was to be done without reference to me." 
Howe threatened to have the man fired who was responsible for the 
electrical service since, as he claimed, President Roosevelt wished all 
the electrical work done under his ( Howe's ) supervision. He also stated 
that Mrs. Roosevelt was very disappointed, since she had been selecting 
refrigerators for some time. 10 

Mrs. Roosevelt and Nancy Cook, who was employed by the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads as a specialist, supervised the internal ap- 

8 Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt to M. L. Wilson, March 26, 1934, R.G. 48, National 

9 Ickes, Secret Diary, I, 150-152; C. E. Pynchon to Oscar Chapman, Oct. 4, 
1934, R.G. 48, National Archives. 

10 Pynchon to Burlew, Oct. 17, 1934, R.G. 48, National Archives; Louis Howe 
to Pynchon, July 24, 1934, ibid. 

244 Tomorrow a New World 

pointments of the new homes. Furniture was provided by the Moun- 
taineer Craftsmen's Co-operative Association, which was the handi- 
craft group founded by the American Friends Service Committee and 
which was later supported by the Civil Works Administration. This 
co-operative group, which later moved into shops at Arthurdale, 
constructed beautiful maple furniture for the project at no cost to the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads ( but at a cost to the Civil Works 
Administration ) . The furniture included not only major items, but linens, 
curtains, and tapestries. By June two model homes were completed 
and decorated for the benefit of visitors and photographers. The land- 
scaping was perfect down to the smallest item. Wild grapevines were 
procured from a nearby wood and carefully twined around trellises. 
One reporter discovered that rhododendron were hauled sixty miles 
at an expense of several hundred dollars in order to impress visitors. 
By this time Arthurdale was so well publicized and so much on exhibit 
that the Division of Subsistence Homesteads felt bound to make it as 
perfect as possible. The wishes of the homesteaders or the self-help ideas 
of the local sponsors had to take second place to the desire to make a 
favorable impression on the visiting public. 11 

The first fifty homesteaders were selected as early as December, 
1933, when they moved to the project as workers. Although from among 
the stranded miners, they represented a select group, despite Mrs. 
Roosevelt's wishes to settle a representative group. The prospective 
homesteaders were selected only after physical examinations, an inter- 
view with a social worker, and the completion of an eight-page question- 
naire. Education, physical fitness, attitudes, ambitions, and agricultural 
abilities were all considered. West Virginia University assisted in the se- 
lection process, basing the selection partially on such practical farming 
tests as seed selection and animal judging. 12 A critic of the rigid require- 
ments for settlers complained: "Probably there are a lot of 'poor risks' 
out on Scott's Run. Probably their bellies are just as hungry as those of 
the good risks." ^ 

11 Stout, "The New Homesteaders," pp. 6-7; Rice, "Footnote on Arthurdale," p. 

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Subsistence-Homestead 
Movement under National Recovery Act," Monthly Labor Review, XXXVII ( 1933), 
1329; Mary Meek Atkeson, "Too Many Hopes," Country Gentleman, CV (Dec., 
1935), 38. 

13 T. R. Carskadon, "Hull House in the Hills," New Republic, LXXIX (1934), 

Arthurdale 245 

Because of delays in construction the prospective homesteaders at 
Arthurdale saw their long-awaited day of moving constantly postponed, 
from Christmas to March to May to June and even July. Nevertheless, 
on February 26, 1934, M. L. Wilson formally presented an uncom- 
pleted Arthurdale to the homesteaders during a driving snowstorm. 
Also present and speaking was Representative Jennings Randolph, 
who accepted for the homesteaders and excused the delay and early 
mistakes as inevitable in a new undertaking. On June 7, 1934, Arthur- 
dale celebrated its formal opening, although the fifty homes were hardly 
finished and were not yet occupied. Speaking at the opening was Mrs. 
Roosevelt, who also conversed with the homesteaders in the Arthur 
mansion. Among the important guests in the large crowd were Ber- 
nard Baruch and Mrs. Harold Ickes. Mrs. Roosevelt was anxious to 
secure Baruch's support for some educational experimentation. The 
grateful homesteaders, already blessed by the fruits of labor and a 
bountiful soil if not by completed homes, presented Mrs. Roosevelt 
with a big bunch of onions and radishes. 14 

By July 15, 1934, forty-three of the first fifty homes were occupied. 
Construction of 150 more was already planned. Ickes reported that the 
average unit cost of the first houses and outbuildings was $4,880, which 
was much above earlier plans for something like $2,500 but much below 
the estimates of several critics, who had envisioned a cost of up to 
$10,000. Ickes' report was probably based only upon the expenses of 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads and excluded costs attributable 
to other agencies, such as the Civil Works Administration. The final 
accounting at Arthurdale showed an average cost of $16,377 for each 
family unit, which included all expenditures for community facilities 
and for management. The actual cost of the homes and outbuildings 
averaged $8,665, but this average included forty larger and more ex- 
pensive houses constructed later by the Resettlement Administration. 
The first homesteader at Arthurdale was an unmarried mechanical 
engineer who had worked for the Friends and who homesteaded in 
order to teach woodworking to the miners. He planned to have his 
mother and father live with him. 15 

From July, 1934, to May, 1935, when the Resettlement Administra- 

14 Stout, "The New Homesteaders," p. 65; New York Times, June 8, 1934, p. 6. 

15 New York Times, July 15, 1934, sec. 2, p. 12; Farm Security Administration, 
"Arthurdale: Final Report of Project Costs," R.G. 96, National Archives; Stout, 
"The New Homesteaders," p. 7. 

246 Tomorrow a New World 

tion inherited the subsistence homesteads, the activity at Arthur dale 
centered on the construction of seventy-five additional homes and on 
the educational plans of Mrs. Roosevelt. The new houses did not suffer 
from the same waste and haste as the first fifty. Like the first ones, 
they were located on subsistence plots of from two to five acres, but 
were of combined concrete-block and frame construction. Only six had 
basements. They were one and one-half story buildings, with hardwood 
floors, brass fixtures, paneled walls, and furnaces. Although they also 
had individual wells, they, unlike the first fifty, had a central sewage 
disposal system. These homes were reported to resemble an expensive 
suburban housing project except for their unique spacing. 16 In January, 
1935, the Division of Subsistence Homesteads allotted an added $900,- 
000 to Arthurdale for the new houses and the school buildings. It also 
admitted a loss of $500,000, which it frankly attributed to experimenta- 
tion and errors in judgment. Not explained was the fact that the largest 
error in judgment was made by Howe in ordering the fifty prefabricated 
houses. The costs were again defended by Mrs. Roosevelt and also by 
her ally at Arthurdale, Bernard Baruch. 17 

In the very first plans for Arthurdale a school was contemplated, 
since the community was to be relatively isolated and since the added 
school population would have been an impossible burden on the local 
school system, which gained no increase in tax receipts from the un- 
taxable homestead property. As early as January, 1934, Mrs. Roosevelt 
took over the direction of the educational plans for Arthurdale and, 
working both within and without the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads, eventually made Arthurdale the site of an ambitious experiment 
in progressive education. By January, 1934, Mrs. Roosevelt had con- 
tacted Miss Elsie Clapp of the famed Ballard Memorial School near 
Louisville, Kentucky, asking her to direct the Arthurdale school pro- 
gram. By June she and Miss Clapp had formulated some very ambitious 
plans. The school at Arthurdale was to consist of several units and was 
to employ up to twenty-one faculty members, all for a community of 
no more than 200 families. The projected cost was approximately 
$163,800, much above the subsistence homesteads budget. As a result 
Mrs. Roosevelt used her own money to pay Miss Clapp's salary and 

16 Farm Security Administration, "Arthurdale: Final Report of Project Costs," 
R.G. 96, National Archives; Rice, "The Fuller Life at Reedsville," p. 26. 

17 New York Times, Jan. 18, 1935, p. 25; Jan. 24, 1935, p. 14; Jan. 29, 1935, p. 23. 

Arthurdale 247 

successfully appealed to Bernard Baruch and others for part of the 
funds for the school. Their advisers included John Dewey, Dean Wil- 
liam Russell of Teachers College, Columbia University, Fred }. Kelly 
of the United States Office of Education, and, later, Eugene E. Agger 
of the Resettlement Administration. The Department of Education at 
West Virginia University joined in the planning and was responsible 
for the plans covering the school buildings. In the fall of 1934 Miss 
Clapp began the first school year with classes in the Arthur mansion 
and in the community building. Six new school buildings were under 
construction. 18 

The six school buildings at Arthurdale were a cause of much criticism. 
The buildings, which were completed in 1936, were constructed in a 
row. There were an administration building, a gymnasium, a nursery 
school, a primary department an elementary school, and a high school, 
all costing 82-53.102. 96. 19 The buildings were planned for adults as well 
as children, with the gymnasium and auditorium being used for most of 
the community activities. Miss Clapp, who had degrees from Vassar, 
Barnard, and Columbia, lived in a specially constructed house and di- 
rected the unusual school program, which was to begin before a child 
was born and was to continue throughout his life. Pre- and postnatal 
instruction was given by the project nurse and doctor. By the age of 
two or three the child graduated into a special nursery which was di- 
rected by the former head of the Harriet Johnson Nursery School in 
New York City. In terms of both equipment and results the Arthurdale 
nursery became a widely known model. Here the small children used 
wooden blocks constructed in the shop of the high school and learned 
self-expression through creative painting. Since by agreement with 
state and county school boards, the elementary and secondary schools 
were permitted to teach a "new economic and social freedom." the 
elementary grades were based on example, discussion, and actual work 
rather than on formal teaching, which was completely excluded along 
with set examinations. The high school, which emphasized vocational 
and shop work, had only forty-seven members the first year and for 
a time failed to secure accreditation in the West Virginia school system. 

15 M. L. Wilson to Ickes, Jan. 27, 1934, R.G. 48, National Archives; Pynchon to 
Ickes, June 20, 19-34, ibid.; Pickett, For More tJian Bread, pp. -57-59. 

'* Farm Security Administration. "Arthurdale: Final Report of Project Costs," 
R.G. 96, National Archives. 

248 Tomorrow a New World 

Miss Clapp believed in the development of natural instincts and a 
positive outlook. She summarized as follows: "We remove mental and 
physical impediments and graft on the things that help. Negative 
thoughts and attitudes do not flourish here. This is virgin soil and to- 
morrow is another day." 20 

The progressive school at Arthurdale was turned over to the Preston 
County school system after two years of private operation. At that time 
much of the experimentation ended, for many of the parents had been 
fearful that their children were not getting as good an education as 
children in "regular" schools. Thus the dreams of the private sponsors 
were not realized for long, although the nursery school was popular 
with parents and was continued with subsidies from the private spon- 
sors. Clarence Pickett, a member of Mrs. Roosevelt's educational com- 
mittee, decided that "the enthusiasm of a few people who had thought 
deeply and dreamed long about the possibilities of the right kind of 
education led in this case to commitments which assumed more ex- 
perimental-mindedness among the homesteaders than had yet de- 
veloped." But he also concluded that "none of us who took part in the 
experiment has any regrets at the amount of energy we put into it." 21 

Closely connected with the educational program were the health 
services. Arthurdale eventually contained a small health center (a con- 
verted house ) , with two beds, two doctors, and a nurse. The nurse was 
paid by the Resettlement Administration, and, in the beginning, the 
physician was furnished by the American Friends Service Committee. 
Later a medical co-operative was inaugurated, with monthly dues of 
one dollar for those us in 5 the project physicians.- 2 

When the Resettlement Administration inherited Arthurdale in May, 
1935, only 125 homes were completed or near completion. Five of the 
school buildings were almost completed. This construction was left 
under the supervision of a New York architect who had worked on a 
contract basis tor the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. The Re- 
settlement Administration, in order to offer longer employment op- 
portunities to homesteaders, deferred the construction by limiting em- 
ployment to 402 workers each month. Moreover, despite past failures 

* Charles E. Pynchon, "School as Social Center," New York Times, May 5, 
1935, sec. 9, p. 23. 

* Pickett, For More than Bread, pp. 5S-59, 62. 

~ Rice, "Footnote on Arthurdale," pp. 416-417; R. C. Williams to \V. W. Alex- 
ander, Jan. S, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

Arthurdale 249 

and gloomy prospects for employment, the Resettlement Administration 
added a third group of forty homes to the project. These, the most 
expensive homes of all, were of locally quarried stone veneer over frame 
construction. Each consisted of six rooms and the best of conveniences. 
On the project as a whole, which now included 165 homesteads, the 
Resettlement Administration added 108 root cellars and 56 storage 
houses. When thirty-six individual wells in the low-lying areas had to be 
abandoned because of contamination, the Resettlement Administration 
provided a central water system for these homes and for the com- 
munity center. The school had its own water system and fireplugs. 23 
Mrs. Roosevelt continued her interest in Arthurdale and exerted her in- 
fluence by frequent trips and through a Committee on Arthurdale, 
which included Mrs. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and Clarence Pickett. 
Pickett was retained by the Resettlement Administration as a con- 
sultant, as was Miss Nancy Cook. 

Arthurdale, because of the many admitted mistakes and the con- 
flicting groups trying to make policy, was a boon for New Deal critics, 
amply rewarding the cynical or the hostile with exhibits of waste and 
stupidity. On the other hand, the many people sympathetic with the 
aims of Arthurdale were more likely to judge it on the intentions of its 
sponsors and thus overlook some of the unpleasant realities of Arthur- 
dale as a fact. For those sympathetic ones the idea of an experiment 
was always useful in explaining away early mistakes and excessive 
expenses. Others saw the end result at Arthurdale and were impressed, 
since the completed Arthurdale was a beautiful village, with pretty new 
homes, a neat community center, and productive gardens and farms. 
The following impression may have been shared by a majority of 
casual visitors: 

The place is beautiful on Sundays. Little white homes, chattering visitors, 
mountain scenery of the Allegheny Plateau. Visitors admire the hand-made 
furniture that Mrs. Roosevelt selected, and listen with awe to the plans for 
the school, the church, and the community center. They think it is wonder- 
ful the way all the homesteaders are going to have an opportunity to learn 
handicrafts. They'll learn to make furniture and weave mats and rugs just 
like those in the model homes. It all sounds so cozy and "early American." 
The homes are like little corners of Arcady. 24 

33 Resettlement Administration, First Annual Report (Washington, 1936), pp. 

81 Carskadon, "Hull House in the Hills," p. 314. 

250 Tomorrow a New World 

Other people came looking only for the mistakes, and of course they 
found them. In August, 1934, the Saturday Evening Post published an 
expose on Arthurdale that set the pattern for all later attacks, while 
causing acute embarrassment to the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads, since the article, although very slanted, was factually irrefutable 
on most points. Soon the inanities of Arthurdale were well known, in 
fact were so well known that the whole story of Arthurdale was com- 
pletely distorted. Much that was done at Arthurdale was pictured as 
something resembling a joke, and the whole subsistence homesteads 
program, by generalization, was subjected to ridicule. The following 
inanities became classics, bandied about for years by reporters and 
always worth a laugh: the basements with countless foundations; the 
paper-thin walls of Howe's "famous fifty"; the expensive grease traps; 
the copper plumbing which, according to one report, was ruined by 
the homesteaders' driving nails into the floor; the wells that became 
contaminated; the pumps that froze; the six school buildings for only 
400 children; the leaking roofs; the high school that was not accredited; 
the fifty halters purchased for fifty cows that never arrived; the eight 
wells which were never used because of a change in plans; the barn 
foundations that were placed too close to the houses and then covered 
with soil; the dead wild grapevines wound on trellises; the imported 
rhododendron in an area rich with rhododendron; and the estimated 
cost of over $10,000 per home when a new two-story brick dwelling 
and a thirty-five-acre farm in the same area were selling for $5,000. 25 

Since Arthurdale was the most publicized of the subsistence home- 
steads communities, since it was the first New Deal community to be 
initiated, and since it was an avowed experiment and demonstration in 
government planning, it perhaps was inevitable that it would become 
a symbol of the whole subsistence homesteads program and, in critical 
hands, of all government planning and experimentation, despite the 
fact that Arthurdale suffered most from a lack of detailed planning. 
The first congressional displeasure centered on Arthurdale and the 
contemplated Post Office factory. From then on Arthurdale was al- 
ways brought into any discussion of New Deal communities, always 
serving as a convenient example to use in attacking the whole program. 
When the American Liberty League condemned all New Deal experi- 
mentation, it quite naturally used Arthurdale as an example of "what 

25 Stout, "The New Homesteaders," pp. 6-7; Bolles, "Resettling America," pp. 
343-344; Rice, "The Fuller Life at Arthurdale," p. 27. 

Arthurdale 251 

happens when misguided zealots obtain access to the public Treas- 
ury." 2G For that reason the inanities of Arthurdale, even though minor 
and over exploited, had great importance in the realm of anti-New Deal 

The greatest problem at Arthurdale, from completion of the first 
fifty homes until World War II, was the lack of opportunities for 
employment, a problem shared by each of the other stranded com- 
munities. The earliest plans for Arthurdale contemplated some newly 
decentralized industry to supplement the subsistence farming and the 
handicraft work. Even as the construction began, the plans for in- 
dustry appeared solved by the announcement about a contemplated 
Post Office factory, but, as already recounted, this plan was blocked 
by Congress. Thus, until 1936, the only sources of industrial employ- 
ment at Arthurdale were in the handicraft shops of the Mountaineer 
Craftsmen's Co-operative Association, which was located in the com- 
munity center. The loom, the forge, and the furniture factory gave 
continuous employment to some eleven or twelve craftsmen. Mean- 
while, most of the men found employment in the continuing construc- 
tion program, either on the new homes or the school buildings. The 
subsistence plots, though providing garden crops and permitting hogs, 
chickens, and a cow, never replaced the need for a cash income. 

In 1934 Mrs. Roosevelt took the employment problem at Arthurdale 
to Gerard Swope of the General Electric Company. He promised to 
operate a vacuum-cleaner assembly plant at Arthurdale. The Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads drew up an agreement with a General 
Electric affiliate, the Electric Vacuum Cleaner Company of Cleveland, 
and began the construction of a factory near the railroad that cut 
through the northern section of the Arthur estate. The factory was to 
be leased to the company for five to ten years, and homesteaders were 
to travel to Cleveland for training. Completed in October, 1935, the 
factory had to remain idle. The contemplated operation was blocked 
by a ruling of the Comptroller General which forbade the use of Re- 
settlement Administration funds for the support of private industry. 
In January, 1936, the Resettlement Administration lent the Arthur- 
dale Association, a co-operative made up of homesteaders, $12,804.47 
to enable it to purchase the factory from the government. After this 
paper transaction, the factory was finally opened on June 23, 1936. 
The Electric Vacuum Cleaner Company leased the factory from the 

26 New York Times, Oct. 28, 1935, p. 2. 

252 Tomorrow a New World 

association at a set monthly rental. Only homesteaders had preference 
in employment. In 1936 the factory gave employment to approximately 
thirty homesteaders, with a minimum wage of forty cents an hour for 
men. Yet, in one year, the enterprise was a financial failure, and the 
company canceled its lease. The Arthurdale Association had to begin 
bargaining with other companies in the hope of finding a new occupant 
for the factory. 27 

Several nonindustrial enterprises at Arthurdale were also unsuccess- 
ful or nearly so. In 1934 the Arthurdale Association purchased 442 
acres of extra farm land. On this, plus about 100 acres already on the 
project, the association established a co-operative dairy and crop farm. 
Despite thirty-three purebred Jersey cattle, this co-operative venture 
lost money, probably because it paid industrial rates for farm work. 
In 1939 the farm was leased to two homesteaders and, in private opera- 
tion, returned a profit for a few years. A poultry farm was operated 
co-operatively from 1936 to 1939, when it was turned over to private 
enterprise because of heavy losses. In January, 1936, the association, 
using a loan from the Resettlement Administration, opened a co- 
operative store which gave employment to four homesteaders. Despite 
reports of excessively high prices during its early years, the store 
managed to survive until the project was liquidated. Besides the store, 
the association operated a gristmill that was never successful and a 
gasoline station that was ruined by the war. It also operated a barber- 
shop and a tearoom. In 1936 one of the more publicized ventures at 
Arthurdale was planned. The old, sturdy Arthur mansion was torn 
down and replaced, at a cost of nearly $28,000, by a modern inn of 
comparable size. The inn suffered from the wartime restrictions on 
travel and was leased to an airplane company. These agricultural and 
retail co-operatives could provide employment for only approximately 
thirty-two people, many of whom were women, girls, or young boys. 28 

In 1937 the Phillips- Jones Corporation occupied the vacated vacuum- 

27 Pynchon to Ickes, Aug. 21, 1934, R.G. 48, National Archives; Committee for 
Economic Recovery, Resettled Communities Committee, Arthurdale: A Partial 
Pattern for the New American Way of Life, a report prepared for President 
Franklin D. Roosevelt (n.p., Jan., 1937), pp. 19-20; New York Times, April 27, 
1936, p. 40. 

28 Committee for Economic Recovery, Arthurdale, pp. 5, 15-18; Rice, "Footnote 
on Arthurdale," p. 416; C.R., 76th Cong., 1st Sess., 1939, pp. 3861-3862; "Eden 
Liquidated; Arthurdale Plants Sold; Tenants Buying Homes," Business Week 
(July 27, 1946), pp. 22, 26; Resettlement Administration Weekly Information 
Report no. 38, April 13, 1936, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

Arthurdale 253 

cleaner factory and began a collar factory. It manufactured and cut 
shirts in a Pennsylvania factory and then sent them to Arthurdale 
for final assembly, employing up to sixty homesteaders during its 
brief tenancy. It closed its plant allegedly because of labor troubles 
in Pennsylvania, leaving Arthurdale with an empty factory once 
again. 29 In April, 1939, the most ambitious industrial enterprise yet 
attempted at Arthurdale began operations. With a loan of $325,000 
from the Farm Security Administration, the Arthurdale Co-operative 
Association formed an Arthurdale Farm Equipment Corporation and 
constructed a tractor assembly plant, which was managed by the Ameri- 
can Co-operatives, Incorporated. This was one of the eight major in- 
dustries financed by the Farm Security Administration and was con- 
temporaneous with the five hosiery mills at other projects. The venture 
at Arthurdale was the largest financial failure of them all, losing 
$106,380.21 in one year while employing only approximately twenty- 
five homesteaders. The factory assembled hybrid tractors by using 
parts purchased from various tractor companies, but never found a 
large enough market for its product to sustain operations. 30 It closed 
in April, 1940, after also assembling a few Rust Brothers cotton pickers. 
At the time it closed, only one industry remained at Arthurdale. The 
Mountaineer Craftsmen's Co-operative Association continued to pro- 
duce handicrafts and had adopted mass-production methods in a new 
furniture factory (the third factory for Arthurdale). Since it could 
offer employment to only a few homesteaders, the situation in 1940 
remained desperate, despite all the efforts of the Farm Security Ad- 
ministration and the local co-operative associations. 

With the increasing prosperity of 1941, Mrs. Roosevelt and her 
Committee on Arthurdale succeeded in getting the best industry thus 
far for Arthurdale. The Brunswick Radio and Television Company of 
New York agreed to establish a radio cabinet factory in one of the 
Arthurdale factories, thereby utilizing the woodworking ability of 
many of the homesteaders. In 1942 it was employing approximately 
100 people and was a financial success until wartime scarcities forced 
it to close. By this time employment was no longer a problem at Arthur- 
dale, for with the coming of the war the mines reopened. Even more 
important, the furniture factory, the old vacuum-cleaner factory, and 

29 Rice, "Footnote on Arthurdale," p. 415. 

80 Select Committee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Hearings on the 
Farm Security Administration, 78th Cong., 1st Sess., 1943-1944, pp. 1759-1760. 

254 Tomorrow a New World 

the tractor assembly plant, plus the inn, were all leased by the Hoover 
Aircraft Corporation for manufacturing defense materials. Suddenly 
there were too many jobs and too few homesteaders. 31 

As a completed village, Arthurdale included 165 homes and related 
outbuildings situated on their plots of from two to five acres. The com- 
munity center included the large community building, the forge, the 
co-operative store, barbershop, weaving room, furniture-display room, 
the administrative building, and the filling station. On a hillside was the 
inn. In addition, there were the six school buildings, the three factories, 
the health center, the gristmill, and the farms. This all cost, by 1943, 
the large sum of $2,744,724.09, or $15,635 for each homestead. 32 Yet, 
even by 1940, the average income of each Arthurdale family was only 
$467 a year. 33 Thus, even though the government could never expect 
to sell the homesteads at cost, it also could not sell the homes to the 
homesteaders at anything near the existing value. To have sold the 
homes to the homesteaders according to their ability to pay would have 
necessitated a virtual gift on the part of the government. Therefore, 
the homesteads were rented, with any future sale depending upon in- 
creased economic opportunities, which never came until the war. 

From 1936 there were plans for turning Arthurdale over to a home- 
stead association as soon as there was full employment. But as one 
enterprise after another failed, the homesteaders practically lost hope 
of ownership. A homestead association was formed but never received 
title to the homesteads. Meanwhile the homesteaders had to make 
rent payments from their limited incomes. As early as 1936, Bernard 
Baruch took the lead in advocating lenient terms for the homesteaders, 
since they had been given unfulfilled promises of employment and 
ownership. He asked: "Does anybody still think that any homesteader 
can make a living for himself and his family on a five-acre lot?" 34 The 
government heeded such pleas. By 1940 the average monthly rent at 
Arthurdale was only $9.99. 

Even though without employment or substantial incomes, the home- 
steaders at Arthurdale were well cared for. They had model homes, a 

31 J. M. G. to Mason Barr, July 26, 1941, R.G. 96, National Archives; "Eden 
Liquidated," p. 25; Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 1760. 
z - Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 1119. 

33 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1941, 76th Cong., 3d 
Sess., 1940, pp. 974-975. 

34 Franklin D. Roosevelt to Tugwell, May 6, 1936, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

Arthurdale 255 

model school, excellent recreational facilities, and a governmental land- 
lord that was never harsh. They also enjoyed, or suffered, a nation- 
wide notoriety. No other community of its size was so publicized in 
newspapers all over the country. No other community was visited so 
frequently by the President's wife. Nowhere else did the First Lady so 
often join in the local square dancing in the school gymnasium. At 
no other small community did the President of the United States 
deliver the high school commencement address, as did President Roose- 
velt at Arthurdale in 1938 (Mrs. Roosevelt attended and spoke at 
each commencement from 1936 through 1941). Yet all the publicity 
and the constant stream of visitors had its drawbacks. One mountaineer 
was reported to have exclaimed: "Got so a man couldn't set down to 
his sow belly and turnip greens without some stranger peeking in at 
the window or walking in to ask fool questions." 35 

In 1942, after employment increased, Arthurdale was readied for 
sale to individual homesteaders rather than to a homestead associa- 
tion. The first sales were based on income and a fair evaluation, with 
no down payment required. Some houses sold for as low as $750, and 
the Farm Security Administration frankly estimated that all the home- 
steads would sell for only $175,000, less than 7 per cent of the total 
cost of the community or less than 13 per cent of the total costs of the 
homesteads exclusive of all community and public facilities. 36 Just as 
the sales were commenced, Arthurdale was transferred to the Federal 
Public Housing Authority, which soon raised the prices on the home- 
steads not already contracted for sale. By 1946 only fifty-five homes 
remained unsold, and those were valued at up to $6,000 each; liquida- 
tion was completed in the next two years. On June 15, 1946, the inn 
and three factories, no longer used for war materials, were sold to the 
Belfort Corporation of Baltimore for the manufacture of kitchen cab- 
inets and furniture. They sold for $105,000. 37 With the final liquidation, 
the government at last relinquished one of the most embarrassing ex- 
periments in its history. 

35 "Eden Liquidated," p. 29. 

30 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on the Agricultural Appropriation Bill for 1943, 77th Cong., 2d Sess., 1942, 
pp. 224-225; Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, p. 1119; Farm Se- 
curity Administration, "Arthurdale: Final Report of Project Costs," R.G. 96, Na- 
tional Archives. 

37 "Eden Liquidated," pp. 22, 29. 


Jersey Homesteads A Triple 

IT is a long way from Scott's Run to the Jewish garment district 
of Manhattan, long not so much in terms of miles as of cultural dif- 
ferences. But in both areas the depression led to hardship and to con- 
certed efforts at colonization upon the land, although the background 
of Jersey Homesteads was entirely different from that of Arthurdale. 
In contrast to the brief, depression-born subsistence homesteads move- 
ment in West Virginia, the all co-operative Jewish colony in New 
Jersey was the culmination of a long history of Jewish agricultural and 
industrial colonization in the United States that reached back beyond 
1881. In the past efforts of Jewish immigrants to go onto the land and 
in the long and little-known efforts of Jewish leaders to develop a 
strong Jewish agricultural community are contained almost all the roots 
of Jersey Homesteads. In fact, almost the total program of the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads and the Resettlement Administration had 
been anticipated by the work of Jewish organizations in colonization, 
part-time farming, decentralization of industry, rehabilitation, and 
social engineering. 

Because of numerous restrictions on landownership and constant per- 
secutions and migrations, the ancient Jew, a nomadic herder or a 
farmer, became, by 1800, almost exclusively a city dweller. Seven 
colonies of Jews in South Russia in 1804 represented the first modern 


Jersey Homesteads 257 

attempt of Jews to become farmers. In 1825 an ambitious Jewish refu- 
gee colony was planned for Grand Island in the Niagara River, but 
never proceeded beyond land purchase. Beginning in 1837, a small 
Jewish colony of twelve families in Ulster County, New York, sur- 
vived for five years. Other ambitious back-to-the-land schemes, but 
no real accomplishment, culminated in the formation of a Jewish 
Agricultural Society in 1856, which never went farther than elaborate 
planning for colonies. After the assassination of Alexander II of 
Russia in 1881, a series of pogroms and restrictive laws forced thou- 
sands of Jews to emigrate to the United States and other countries. 
Among the intelligentsia of these emigrants was an organized agrar- 
ian group, Am Olam, which, beginning in 1881, established several 
abortive and a few lasting farm colonies in the United States. A num- 
ber of these featured collectivist plans; all were founded without pre- 
vious farming experience, without adequate guidance, and without 
sufficient funds. The first settlement was at Sicily Island, Louisiana, 
with others following in Arkansas, Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota, 
and New Jersey. Only the New Jersey colonies survived. 1 

Alliance, the first of the New Jersey colonies and the first permanent 
Jewish agricultural colony in the United States, was founded in 1882 
by about twenty-five Jewish immigrants from Russia. Aided by a newly 
formed Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society, they purchased 1,100 acres of 
land, divided it into fifteen-acre plots, and established small factories. 
The Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society searched the West for farms for 
those other Jews determined to go onto the land, but, as the stream 
of immigration temporarily slowed, soon went out of existence, leav- 
ing a Jewish author, Michael Heilprin, as the father of several later 
colonies. In this first great spurt of Jewish colonization, lasting from 
1881 to 1888, enduring colonies were started in South New Jersey 
at Norma, Brotmanville, Rosenhayn, Carmel, Garten Road, and Al- 
liance. The Jewish people, with their distinct communal proclivities 
and without any real experience in agriculture, chose the colony or 
community method of agricultural settlement. They also, even in the 
first settlements, introduced factories into their farm villages. Mean- 
Jewish Agricultural Society, Jews in American Agriculture: The History of 
Farming by Jews in the United States (New York, 1954), pp. 8, 16, 19, 23-26; 
Philip Reuben Goldstein, Social Aspects of the Jewish Colonies of South Jersey 
(New York, 1921), p. 12; Gabriel Davidson, Our Jewish Farmers and the Story 
of the Jewish Agricultural Society (New York, 1943), pp. 194-249. 

258 Tomorrow a New World 

while an overwhelming majority of the Jewish immigrants settled in 
the large cities and became needleworkers. 2 

When the heavy Jewish migration resumed by 1890, a wealthy Euro- 
pean industrialist and Jew, Baron Maurice de Hirsch, became so in- 
terested in the plight of the Russian Jews that he endowed a Jewish 
Colonization Society which, from its European headquarters, aided in 
the colonization of Jews in several countries. In 1891 Baron de Hirsch 
also contributed $2,400,000 to be used exclusively for the aid of Jewish 
emigrants to the United States. Of this sum, $240,000 was specifically 
designated for farm colonies, since Hirsch was a convinced agrarian. 
The executors of the Baron de Hirsch fund ( American Jewish leaders ) 
appointed an agricultural and industrial committee which early de- 
cided that any new colonies should be both agricultural and industrial. 
Meanwhile the South Jersey colonies were adopted and aided by the 
committee, which also made loans to individual Jews who wished to 
enter agriculture. For its first major endeavor the committee considered 
establishing either a suburban-type colony at Hightstown, New Jer- 
sey, or a predominantly agricultural colony in southern New Jersey. 
The latter plan was adopted, while a Jewish colony at Hightstown 
had to await the New Deal. 3 

To develop their first farm colony the trustees of the Baron de Hirsch 
fund founded a colonization corporation which purchased 5,300 acres 
near Vineland, New Jersey, and, in 1892, began the development of 
what was to become the Woodbine colony. Sixty families were selected 
for the farms, with each being required to contribute some small 
sum as down payment. The land was divided into three parts a 
central town, an encircling area divided into fifteen-acre farmsteads, 
and, at the outskirts, a circle of pasture land. In the first year sixty- 
four farmhouses, valued at $600 each, were constructed by the corpora- 
tion, and twenty-five town houses were constructed at a cost of from 
$850 to $1,300 each. The first factory, a cloak company, was opened 
during the first year, and, everything seeming well under way, all 
aid from the Baron de Hirsch fund ceased. This led to a strike on the 

2 Goldstein, Social Aspects of the Jewish Colonies, pp. 13-17; Samuel Joseph, 
History of the Baron de Hirsch Fund The Americanization of the Jewish Im- 
migrant (Philadelphia, 1935), pp. 5, 8-9; William Kirsch, The Jew and the Land 
(American Association for Agricultural Legislation, Bulletin no. 7; Madison, Wis., 
1920), p. 12. 

3 Joseph, History of the Baron de Hirsch Fund, pp. 11-22, 24, 32-34, 48-50. 

Jersey Homesteads 259 

part of the farmers, who found poor soil and who lacked experience 
in farming. They had received a house, a cow stable, money for cows 
and chickens, farm implements, seeds, and fruit trees. For three years 
they were obligated for an annual payment of only fifty dollars, but 
by the end of twelve years were to have paid the full cost of the farm, 
receiving fee simple ownership at an estimated cost of only $1,100. 
After the strike the leases were modified, and the colony entered a 
long period of supervision and direction from the trustees of the 
Baron de Hirsch fund, who suddenly discovered the magnitude of 
the undertaking at Woodbine. Woodbine, planned as a beginning 
of the reconstruction of Jewish life in America, was the last such 
colony attempted. The trustees of the fund spent years of effort in 
securing adequate, subsidized industry for Woodbine, presaging the 
efforts of the Resettlement Administration at Arthurdale and else- 
where. Although the first Jewish agricultural school was established 
at Woodbine, the colony became an industrial village with only a few 
farms surrounding it. By 1900 the population of Woodbine was 1,400. 4 
The efforts of the trustees of the Baron de Hirsch fund to establish 
Woodbine, to aid the older Jewish colonies, and to establish individ- 
ual farmers led to the formation of the Jewish Agricultural and In- 
dustrial Aid Society (since renamed the Jewish Agricultural Society) 
in 1900 and to more experimentation. The original purposes of the 
society included the "removal of those working in crowded metro- 
politan sections to agricultural and industrial districts," the granting 
of loans to artisans seeking suburban homes, the decentralization of 
industry, and the encouragement of co-operatives. In the first few years 
the society devoted much of its efforts to unsuccessful attempts at 
decentralizing industry, especially in connection with several of the 
New Jersey colonies. It also attempted to found a few new colonies 
in the West, but failed each time. By 1909 the society became orientated 
toward a lasting policy of aiding individual Jewish farmers. It con- 
tinued to direct the settlement of individual back-to-the-landers, but 
depended upon individual farms in community groups rather than on 
organized colonies. It published a farm magazine in Yiddish, initiated 
an itinerant supervisory program that predated the United States Ex- 
tension Service, organized the first rural co-operative credit unions in 
America, formed local Jewish farm federations which experimented in 

4 Ibid., pp. 52-56, 89. 

260 Tomorrow a New World 

group purchasing, organized test farms, made short-term rehabilita- 
tion loans, carried out the first work in rural sanitation in the United 
States, and, in the New Jersey colonies, conducted evening schools, 
established libraries, built community halls, and supervised recreation. 
In fact, the Jewish Agricultural Society, directed by many of America's 
best-known Jewish leaders, became a miniature Resettlement Admin- 
istration. From only 200 to 400 families in 1900, the Jewish farm popula- 
tion grew to approximately 5,000 families in 1910 and, by 1930, to 
approximately 16,000 families. The work of the Jewish Agricultural 
Society was intended to prove false the long-standing and bitterly 
resented allegation that Jews did not make good farmers. In this it 
succeeded. 5 

By 1924 the Jewish Agricultural Society was seriously considering 
part-time farming as a transitory step for Jewish urbanites who even- 
tually desired to be farmers. From this came plans for agro-industrial 
communities, one of the earlier precedents for subsistence homesteads. 
In 1926 an agro-industrial settlement was started at Bound Brook, 
New Jersey, by Jewish families who were advised and assisted by the 
Jewish Agricultural Society. By 1929 forty families were living on 
four- to fourteen-acre tracts and commuting to their city jobs. In 
1929 the Jewish Agricultural Society decided to initiate a second such 
community. It purchased a tract near New Brunswick, New Jersey, where 
it intended eventually to settle about twenty-five families on five- to 
seven-acre plots. Cautiously beginning the experiment, it constructed 
nine four- and five-room houses which the settlers helped plan. The 
first homesteaders contributed about one-fourth the value of their 
homesteads as a down payment. Although further expansion was 
curtailed because of the depression, the society continued to believe 
that the idea was sound and welcomed the support given to a very 
similar idea by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1931 in his early advocacy of 
subsistence homesteads. 6 

In the back-to-the-land movement of the depression the Jewish 
Agricultural Society was swamped with applications for aid in locating 

5 Ibid., pp. 120-121, 129; Goldstein, Social Aspects of the Jewish Colonies, pp. 
25-28; Davidson, Our Jewish Farmers, pp. 19, 24, 29, 36, 75; Jewish Agricultural 
Society, Jews in American Agriculture, pp. 35, 38-41. 

6 Jewish Agricultural Society, Annual Report, 1929 (New York, [1930]), pp. 
8-10; Annual Report, 1930 (New York, [1931]), pp. 10-12; Annual Report, 1931 
(New York, [1932]), p. 10. 

Jersey Homesteads 261 

and buying farms, but was handicapped by a lack of funds. Yet its 
long work in directing farm settlement, in granting farm credit, and 
in part-time farming quickly became a part of the New Deal program. 
One of its members. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., became the first director 
of the Farm Credit Administration. In New York City the back-to-the- 
land idea captured the minds of many Jewish leaders and of many idle 
garmentworkers. Against the cautious advice of the Jewish Agricultural 
Society, several ill-conceived farm colonies were attempted, includ- 
ing the short-lived Sunrise Community in Michigan. This movement 
also led to Jersey Homesteads, which, because of its collective features, 
was viewed hopefully but with some skepticism by the Jewish Agri- 
cultural Society, since many former such colonies had failed. If Jersey 
Homesteads had followed the pattern of the other, less-collectivized 
industrial homesteads, it would have been a direct extension of the 
two agro-industrial communities of the Jewish Agricultural Society. 

Benjamin Brown, the immediate father of Jersey Homesteads, was 
a Jewish emigrant from the Ukraine. Coming to the United States in 
1901 at the age of sixteen, he worked his way through college and be- 
came an enthusiastic organizer of rural co-operatives, beginning with 
the Central Utah Poultry Exchange in 1919. By 1925 he was managing 
a distribution organization in New York City which served several 
Western farm co-operatives and had an annual business of $12,000,000. 
As a complement to his enthusiasm for farm co-operatives, Brown had 
long desired to establish co-operative agricultural and industrial colo- 
nies for the Jewish needleworkers of New York City. In 1928 Brown 
was a member of a delegation of Americans which traveled to Russia 
to help in the organization of a distribution system in Biro-Bidjan, the 
all- Jewish colony in the Soviet Union. Also on the trip was M. L. 
Wilson, who sympathized with Brown's desire to remove the garment- 
workers to the country. 7 

Many Jews saw the country as a means to escape the criticism so 
often leveled against the Jews because of their concentration in urban 
areas and because of their participation in highly competitive com- 
mercial and financial occupations. Thus, in June, 1933, leaders of three 
Jewish labor bodies, the Workmen's Circle, the United Hebrew Trades, 

7 George Weller, "Land of Milk and Honey," Literary Digest, CXXIV ( Aug. 
14, 1937), 14; Ralph F. Armstrong, "Four-Million Dollar Village," Saturday Eve- 
ning Post, CCX (Feb. 5, 1938), 7, 34. 

262 Tomorrow a New World 

and the National Jewish Workers' Alliance, were willing to meet in a 
conference in New York City to study Benjamin Brown's back-to-the- 
land proposals. The conference resulted in the formation of the Pro- 
visional Commission for Jewish Farm Settlements in the United States, 
with Brown as chairman. The commission, which in addition to support 
from labor organizations included among its members Rabbi Stephen 
S. Wise, Isador Lubin, Chief of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and, 
later, Albert Einstein, planned to give form and direction to the back- 
to-the-land movement. Jersey Homesteads, which became its first 
effort, was planned as the first of a series of similar colonies, al- 
though no others were ever actually attempted. 8 

With the announcement of the subsistence homesteads program, 
Benjamin Brown and his commission applied for a loan of $500,000 
from M. L. Wilson and the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. The 
plan proposed by Brown was for a colony of 200 skilled Jewish needle- 
workers, who were to become self-sustaining through subsistence farm- 
ing combined with seasonal employment in a co-operative garment 
factory. Small individual homestead plots were to be supplemented 
by a community truck garden, dairy, and poultry plant, all operated 
co-operatively. Completing the circle of co-operative activities was 
to be a community store to sell the community-produced products. 
The cost of such a colony, including the factory, was estimated at 
$600,000, with $100,000 to be provided by the 200 homesteaders, who 
were to contribute $500 each. After investigation, the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads approved Brown's plans and granted him the 
loan in December, 1933. Under the early policies, Brown and his 
commission became the Board of Directors of a Jersey Homesteads 
Corporation, which was authorized to develop the colony with a mini- 
mum of government supervision. Brown had already determined on 
a 1,200-acre tract of fertile land about five miles from Hightstown, 
New Jersey, and proceeded to buy it for $96,000 in December. In 
January, Max Blitzer, a former assistant to the president of William 
and Mary College, was appointed project manager by the local cor- 
poration. The first announcement of the project resulted in 800 ap- 

8 New York Times, Jan. 7, 1934, sec. 9, p. 12; "Milk and Honey: Jewish Needle- 
Workers Move into Highstown Project," Literary Digest, CXXI (June 20, 1936), 

Jersey Homesteads 263 

plicants for homesteads, despite the $500 down payment. Jersey Home- 
steads seemed well under way. 9 

As soon as Benjamin Brown and Max Blitzer began to try to turn 
their plans for Jersey Homesteads into a reality, troubles multiplied. 
First of all, Brown failed to maintain the support of all the original 
sponsors, particularly those representing labor and charity groups. 
Brown was also foiled in his early plans to build homes for $2,000 
or less, since National Recovery Administration codes had raised 
prices. Plans to import inexpensive cattle from drought areas were 
thwarted by New Jersey laws. Then, in May, the whole subsistence 
homesteads program was federalized, removing all actual control from 
Brown, even though Blitzer was retained as project manager. Shortly 
thereafter M. L. Wilson, Brown's friend, resigned from the Division of 
Subsistence Homesteads. 

After the newly centralized Division of Subsistence Homesteads 
had reviewed the plans for Jersey Homesteads, another $327,000 was 
authorized for the project, and by the fall of 1934 construction opera- 
tions were under way. Then a new obstacle intervened. Brown's original 
plan, from which he would never deviate, called for a private manu- 
facturer to operate the garment factory until the homesteaders were 
settled and could organize their own co-operative. As a result Brown 
and Blitzer began negotiating with private concerns, only to face the 
determined hostility of powerful David Dubinsky, head of the Inter- 
national Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Dubinsky opposed the sub- 
sidized removal of a factory and jobs from the already-harassed 
workers of New York City. Since Dubinsky remained adamant, despite 
attacks in the Jewish press and pleas from Einstein and others, the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads, with no guarantee of an adequate 
economic base and with no desire for another stranded community, 
decided to suspend all operations at Hightstown. Thus was the situa- 
tion stalemated when the Resettlement Administration and Tugwell 
took over in May, 1935. 10 

9 Russell Lord and Paul H. Johnstone, A Place on Earth: A Critical Appraisal of 
Subsistence Homesteads (Washington, 1942), pp. 137-140; Armstrong, "Four- 
Million Dollar Village," p. 34; Lawrence Lucey, "A Cooperative Town," Common- 
weal, XXV (Dec. 18, 1936), 210. 

10 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 140-142; Armstrong, "Four- 
Million Dollar Village," p. 34. 

264 Tomorrow a New World 

At the time the Resettlement Administration took over Jersey Home- 
steads, 120 families had already been tentatively selected as home- 
steaders, $170,000 had been spent, some land had been cleared, the 
cleared land was being cropped by the New Jersey Rural Rehabilita- 
tion Corporation, and one well had been dug. The 120 homesteaders 
were carefully screened individuals who, since they contributed $500 
of their own money, never regarded themselves as recipients of special 
government aid. The families had been selected by the sponsors, with 
final approval by an official of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. 
Beyond the possession of $500, they had to be union members in 
good standing, to be sufficiently skilled in their needle trades to give 
assurance of economic success, to have some understanding of co- 
operative endeavor, and to have a family which showed evidence of 
good home management. The homesteaders, accustomed to organiz- 
ing in unions or other groups to enforce their demands, desperately 
searching for security and a higher level of living, and blindly trusting 
in the leadership of Brown, were determined that the government 
complete the original plans for their colony. With the delays and the 
reluctance on the part of the government, the homesteaders, ably 
backed by their sponsors and numerous Jewish groups, began a long 
and perfectly united struggle to force the government to continue 
with the construction of Jersey Homesteads. With the delay in the 
spring of 1935, the Division of Subsistence Homesteads was besieged 
with letters, demands for action, and petitions from mass meetings. 
The homesteaders could cite the real sacrifices they had made to raise 
$500 and the jobs they had relinquished because of their prospective 
moves to new homes. 11 

The Resettlement Administration early decided to continue Jersey 
Homesteads, although administration officials considered expanding it 
into a larger housing project of the greenbelt type. Construction work 
was resumed in August, 1935. Blitzer remained as project manager, 
while Brown continued the negotiations with Dubinsky. But once again 
the project was plagued with difficulties, since the arguments between 
Brown and Dubinsky became more bitter than ever, with little prospect 
for a compromise. A ruling in September by the Comptroller General 
seemed to outlaw any factory not connected with agricultural pro- 

11 Armstrong, "Four-Million Dollar Village," p. 34; Lord and Johnstone, A Place 
on Earth, pp. 146-147. 

Jersey Homesteads 265 

duction. In November the factory plan was temporarily dropped by 
the Resettlement Administration, and Blitzer was dismissed. It was 
rumored that the project would be discontinued or that it would not 
include the Jewish homesteaders. In any case all construction ceased. 
On November 26, 1935, the Resettlement Administration announced 
that Jersey Homesteads would be completed, but that all responsibility 
for the project, including the factory negotiations, would be assumed 
by the Resettlement Administration. 12 This left no assurance that the 
original plans would be followed. Brown was practically excluded 
from the project, and the homesteaders were indignant. Fortunately, 
the Resettlement Administration was able to secure Dubinsky's ap- 
proval for a garment factory at Hightstown, provided it was operated 
co-operatively from the very beginning. With this plan in view, the 
homesteaders organized a Workers' Aim Association for the operation 
of the factory, and the Resettlement Administration announced that 
it would go on with the original plans. 

The first two years at Jersey Homesteads were years of controversy; 
the two years of construction were years of extravagance. Tugwell, 
interested in developing new, inexpensive methods of prefabricating 
houses, used Jersey Homesteads as an experiment. In the fall of 1935 
approximately $200,000 was spent in erecting factories to manufacture 
concrete slabs for the sides and roofs of the homes. Yet when the first 
such construction was attempted, the walls collapsed. The whole 
process was abandoned. The concrete slabs were actually used for 
roofs, and the factory was used to manufacture concrete blocks until 
it was discovered that they cost about three times as much as those 
purchased from private manufacturers. This and other early mistakes 
led to an unpopular order to exclude all visitors from the construc- 
tion area and to the posting of guards at the entrances. 

In January, 1936, the Resettlement Administration began an ac- 
celerated construction program at Hightstown. Even though the con- 
struction was delayed by procedural snags and Works Progress Ad- 
ministration labor regulations, the factory was completed by May, and 
several homes were well under way. By July, 1936, the first seven of 
the flat-roofed bungalows were occupied. Most of the other 193 homes 
were completed by January, 1937. As finally completed, the town 

12 New York Times, Aug. 1, 1935, p. 25, Aug. 4, 1935, p. 7, and Aug. 6, 1935, 
p. 19; Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 145. 

266 Tomorrow a New World 

section of Jersey Homesteads contained 200 white, concrete-block 
homes of from five to seven rooms, located on small homestead plots 
of approximately one acre. The homes, although not beautiful from 
the outside, included modern baths, oil furnaces which air-conditioned 
the homes in summer, and electric refrigerators. Each homestead had 
a combination garage and workshop. The town contained the garment 
factory, a modern sewage disposal plant, a water tank and water lines, 
a town hall, which also contained a day nursery and library, a com- 
bination elementary school and community building, a co-operative 
store and butcher shop, a clothing store, a tearoom, and a medical 
clinic. 13 

Jersey Homesteads was the only New Deal community to be settled 
by a completely homogeneous population with strong religious ties. 
From the beginning the homesteaders were a cohesive and enthusi- 
astic group. Almost all of foreign extraction, inured to persecution 
in Russia or other foreign lands, they had practically been forced into 
the garment industry on arriving in America, since almost a third 
were illiterate, since they arrived with less funds than any other major 
immigrant group, and since, in most cases, they were skilled only 
in the needle trades because of occupational limitations imposed 
upon them in Russia. In the garment districts of New York City they 
had not always found the economic security for which they longed. 
The opportunity for a homestead in the country, with their own people 
as neighbors, seemed to be a second migration, away from an in- 
secure, chaotic, and highly competitive world to a modern promised 
land. They were all as eager as children to get into their new homes. 
As early as May 17, 1936, the homesteaders and friends picnicked 
on the grounds of the uncompleted project, disappointed only be- 
cause no important Resettlement Administration official attended. 14 

The first moving day at Jersey Homesteads was on July 10, 1936, 
when seven families arrived after dark. Their fifty-mile trip from New 
York City was delayed by a bridge that was out and by the loss of 
three trucks in heavy traffic. Elaborate opening ceremonies had to 
be canceled, and the homesteaders unloaded in the face of a thunder- 
storm, delayed by a publicity director who insisted on recording the 

13 Lucey, "A Cooperative Town," pp. 210-212; Armstrong, "Four-Million Dol- 
lar Village," p. 6; New York Times, June 14, 1936, sec. 12, pp. 1, 8. 

14 New York Times, May 18, 1936, p. 6. 

Jersey Homesteads 267 

event on a newsreel. With the completion of the project, visitors 
were allowed, with approximately 5,000 inspecting the project on 
July 12. The first settlers were soon greeted by the "doers of good" 
or the "eager helpers and amiable zanies," depending on the point of 
view, that represented the Special Skills Division of the Resettlement 
Administration. There were lectures on preserving, co-operation, and 
drama and, to a group of frugal Jews, on the necessity for economy. 
On the day of moving an interior decorator came from Washington 
with a load of furniture and set up a model cottage, despite the fact 
that homesteaders were on the way from New York to move into 
every completed home. On her departure a van came to the house 
and unceremoniously removed the model furniture and placed it in 
storage. Soon after the first homesteads were occupied, a large sur- 
prise package arrived a huge modernistic statue depicting a woman 
at a sewing machine. 15 

The central idea back of Jersey Homesteads was co-operation. 
M. L. Wilson stated that the "pattern of the community itself will be 
as co-operative as it is possible to make it," a sentiment that was in 
line with the ideas of Benjamin Brown. 16 Jersey Homesteads was 
planned as the first triple co-operative in the new world, with co- 
operative stores, farm, and factory. Except for homeownership and 
garden production, every aspect of Hightstown was to be co-operative. 
According to early plans, approximately 40 homesteaders were to work 
the farms and service the stores, while 160 were to work in the factory. 
Admittedly, the garment factory was the key to the economic success 
of the community. But with an aggressive and well-knit band of 
homesteaders, it appeared that Jersey Homesteads would surely be 
one community where co-operative or group activities would succeed. 

As the first homesteads were completed in the summer of 1936, 
Benjamin Brown was under pressure from the homesteaders to get the 
factory under way, since many of the homesteaders had suffered hard- 
ship because of having to hold themselves in readiness for moving to 
a colony that seemed ever-longer delayed in construction. The factory 
building was dedicated in an elaborate ceremony on August 2, 1936. 
Nearly 2,000 people were present, observing the optimism of the home- 

15 New York Times, July 11, 1936, p. 31, and July 13, 1936, p. 31; Armstrong, 
"Four-Million Dollar Village," pp. 38-39. 

16 M. L. Wilson to Murray C. Lincoln, Dec. 31, 1936, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

268 Tomorrow a New World 

steaders, who marched into the factory to the music of "Stars and 
Stripes Forever." They received a congratulatory telegram from Tug- 
well and sang their co-operative association theme, composed by Mr. 
and Mrs. Benjamin Brown: 

Production, co-operation, 
Freedom for every nation, 
Here, there and everywhere, 
This is our claim: 
Workers' Aim, Workers' Aim. 

The factory building was 100 feet by 220 feet, mostly all windows, 
air-conditioned, and declared to be the most modern in the East. 
Present at the dedication were union officials, sales organization exec- 
utives, fashion models, and an orchestra. Large orders for coats were 
announced. Benjamin Brown, who presided at the dedication, de- 
fended Jersey Homesteads against charges of communism, declaring 
instead that it was "common sense-ism" and in line with the Constitu- 
tion and the American way. The trade name of the factory product 
was to be "Tripod," standing for the triple co-operative foundation 
of the colony. Brown said: "On this tripod we will not only bring back 
craftmanship and pride of achievement, together with security, but 
we will bring back prosperity based on abundance and not on curtail- 
ment." 17 

Despite the auspicious opening of the factory, it failed in its first 
year of operation, with Brown blaming the government and the govern- 
ment inclined to place the blame on the homesteaders. Brown became 
committed to a summer opening of the factory because of Resettle- 
ment Administration promises to have the homes finished by July. 
Yet, in August, only eight homesteads were completed, even as factory 
orders were being received. Plans to settle homesteaders in pup tents 
pending completion of their homes were rejected by the Resettle- 
ment Administration, which feared the adverse publicity. As a result 
many of the family heads came to Hightstown and found lodging in 
local homes, thus managing to keep the factory going. By December 
the $60,000 contributed by the 120 approved homesteaders was ex- 
hausted, and orders for coats had not been large enough for a profit. 

"Washington Star, Sept. 8, 1936; New York Times, Aug. 2, 1936, pt. 2, p. 2; 
Lucey, "A Cooperative Town," p. 211. 

Jersey Homesteads 269 

Brown, who led a delegation of homesteaders to Washington, ac- 
cused the government of a breach of faith in not having completed the 
house construction as scheduled, thus preventing the success of the 
factory. Although the Resettlement Administration felt that the failure 
of the factory was due to poor management, it was keenly embarrassed 
by the lags in construction. This was particularly true of the Family 
Selection Section, which had readied the homesteaders for moving 
without knowing of the delay by the Construction Division. Several 
homesteaders faced acute hardship as a result. Therefore the Resettle- 
ment Administration granted Brown a loan of $50,000 for the further 
operation of the factory. 18 

The second factory season opened in January, 1937. Since the Re- 
settlement Administration had completed the homes, any further losses 
could not be attributed to a lack of ready labor, although Brown 
could claim that the nonfulfillment of orders the first year had per- 
manently ruined the market for the factory's products. The second 
factory season ended by Easter, with no further operating funds. 
Brown's appeal for a new loan from the Resettlement Administration 
(now part of the Department of Agriculture) was rejected. Brown 
accused the government of bad faith and raised $50,000 himself, 
forming the Tripod Coat and Suit, Incorporated, to design, promote, 
and distribute the garments. The factory products were to be sold 
through farm co-operative outlets throughout the country. The Tri- 
pod products were distributed by seven trucks, each of which carried 
complete lines of coats, plus racks and mirrors. One truck reported 
sales of $1,000 in one day. But by May, 1938, Tripod suspended 
operations for lack of funds. Appealing to the Farm Security Admin- 
istration, Brown finally received a loan of $150,000, with stipulations in- 
tended to prevent reckless expenditures or overproduction. Almost 
unbelievably, these funds were exhausted in less than a year. The 
Farm Security Administration had to admit the complete failure of 
the co-operative factory and adamantly refused to grant Brown any 
further aid. 19 

Long before the final failure of the factory in April, 1939, the housing 
shortage at Jersey Homesteads had become a housing surplus. Even 

18 Armstrong, "Four-Million Dollar Village," p. 38; J. O. Walker to E. E. Agger, 
Oct. 9, 1936, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

19 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 150151. 

270 Tomorrow a New World 

though the 200 homes were completed, the Resettlement Administra- 
tion was unwilling to move more families into the colony than the 
economic opportunities warranted. In addition, no tenants could be 
found who were willing to contribute $500 to a factory that was an 
obvious failure. In February, 1938, ninety-six homes were vacant, 
with the Resettlement Administration threatening to lease them to 
nonparticipating tenants, and this it later did. Jersey Homesteads 
never contained more than 120 participating Jewish families. 20 

The Jersey Homesteads agricultural asociation was organized in 
the summer of 1936, with ninety-seven homesteaders joining. The farm 
co-operative had $16,000 profit from the New Jersey Rural Rehabilita- 
tion Corporation, which had leased the farm land for the first year, 
and two loans from the Resettlement Administration totaling $133,692. 
The general farm of 412 acres was operated by seven experienced 
farmers who had been selected as homesteaders for that purpose. 
They received a regular salary of twenty-five dollars a week from the 
agricultural association. By raising truck crops for the market, the 
farm made a profit of $17,000 in 1936, only to lose money consistently 
in the following years. In the spring of 1937 a poultry unit was started, 
and a nearby dairy farm was purchased in the fall of 1937. Con- 
trary to Brown's expectations, the three farm units never provided 
employment for more than thirteen people on the project, and these 
were the professional farmers. The factory workers, used to indoor 
work and union wages, were not willing to supplement their earn- 
ings by farm work, even in periods of unemployment. As a result 
transient Negro laborers were employed in busy seasons. Of the three 
units, only the poultry plant managed to make any profits. After last- 
ing only a year and losing $15,000, the dairy farm was leased to an 
outside co-operative. 21 

The third leg of the co-operative tripod, the consumer outlets, was 
slightly stronger than the factory and farms. The clothing store was 
doomed with the factory, but the grocery and meat market had periods 
of limited prosperity, while the small tearoom managed to survive, 
albeit with inadequate stock and facilities. The three co-operatives 
at Jersey Homesteads were each controlled by a Board of Directors 

20 New York Times, Feb. 7, 1938, p. 2; Sept. 24, 1938, p. 19. 
^Weller, "Land of Milk and Honey," p. 13; Lord and Johnstone, A Place on 
Earth, pp. 152-154. 

Jersey Homesteads 271 

elected by the members. Each of the co-operatives was represented 
in a community council, which approved all new members admitted 
to the community. Each member of the co-operatives had one vote 
and was to share equally in any dividends. The homesteaders entered 
into the co-operatives with great enthusiasm, making co-operation 
almost a religion. They even formed a co-operative political party, 
which elected their first mayor. Yet enthusiasm was not enough. 22 

The co-operative factory lost money because of an inexperienced 
manager, because of production in excess of orders, because of an 
overly ambitious line of goods, and because of high labor costs and 
inefficient production. Even though many of the homesteaders felt 
that the failure was the fault of the government, they would have been 
more realistic if they had placed the blame on themselves and their 
own attitudes. Habituated to highly competitive endeavor, they were 
frankly seeking more wages and a better job for themselves rather than 
a new way of life. Co-operation meant benefits to the exclusion of 
sacrifices. Thus, in the case of the farm units, the homesteaders, ex- 
cept for the farmers, were primarily interested in what they could get 
from the farms. They wanted lowered prices for farm products but 
were unwilling to work for the lower farm wages. Eventually the 
nonfarmers in the agricultural association secured control of the Board 
of Directors and tried to run the farms for their own benefit. Even 
the homesteaders' cohesiveness sometimes hindered, for their attitude 
was one of "you protect me and I will protect you." Thus inefficient 
workers were retained. A clerk in the co-operative store, when dis- 
missed, picketed the store the next day, and not a customer passed him. 
He was rehired, since all business had ceased. 23 

Although a co-operative economy at Jersey Homesteads failed, a 
second objective of the original sponsors the successful decentraliza- 
tion of a seasonal industry was not necessarily proved impractical, 
since decentralized clothing factories were successful in nearby towns. 
Just after the failure of the co-operative factory in 1939, a private 
company leased the factory building from the co-operative associa- 
tion, but remained only a short time. The homesteaders, used to the 

22 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 152-154; Harold V. Knight, "Jersey 
Homesteads, Co-operative Outpost," Christian Century, LV (Feb. 2, 1938), 142; 
Armstrong, "Four-Million Dollar Village," p. 7. 

23 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 148, 152153, 155. 

272 Tomorrow a New World 

excellent positions and high wages they had given themselves, made 
such high wage demands that the private concern withdrew after a 
short period of bitter controversy. In October, 1939, the Farm Security 
Administration forced the co-operative association to sell the factory 
at auction, since its loans were still unpaid. The government bid in 
the factory and most of the fixtures, netting only $1,811 on the items 
released. After remaining idle a year, the factory was rented for five 
years to Kartiganer and Company of Manhattan for the manufacturing 
of women's hats. By that time many of the homesteaders had secured 
jobs in nearby cities, although in 1941 about 100 homesteaders, from 
40 families, were working in the hat factory, which proved moderately 
successful. 24 

Another objective of Jersey Homesteads was subsistence agriculture 
on the small homestead plots. When first on their homesteads most 
of the settlers were enthusiastically interested in vegetable gardens. 
Experts from the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station gave 
lectures on gardening, and the farm co-operative offered to plow and 
sow each garden for ten dollars. Many of the homesteaders quickly 
lost their early interest. Eight families never made use of their garden 
plot at all, and thirty-eight families almost exclusively raised flowers. 
These families claimed that gardening did not pay when proper 
charges were made for their own labor, which, in spite of periods of 
unemployment, they felt should be amply rewarded. On the other 
hand, about sixty-five homesteaders took pride in their vegetable gar- 
dens, some as sources of food, many as hobbies. 25 

One objective of Jersey Homesteads was fulfilled even beyond ex- 
pectations. From the first occupancy, Jersey Homesteads was a true 
community, with a cohesive, socially active citizenry. The first moving 
into homes was a community affair. Through the long wait for the 
completion of the homesteads and during what the settlers believed 
was a long struggle to get the government to fulfill its obligations, 
the homesteaders had developed a close bond of kinship. In the com- 
munity everyone knew everyone else, and house doors were never 
locked. Though quick to criticize the government and its policies, 
the homesteaders were proud of their new homes and very happy 

24 Ibid., p. 156; New York Times, Oct. 28, 1939, p. 17, Oct. 31, 1939, p. 23, and 
Nov. 1, 1939, p. 26; "Back to Capitalism," Time, XXXV (April 22, 1940), 87-88. 

25 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 157158. 

Jersey Homesteads 273 

about the opportunities offered by the community. Numerous social 
organizations were quickly organized; in fact, the community was al- 
most overorganized, with some meeting occurring almost every night. 
In 1939 there were only three adult members of the original home- 
steaders who did not belong to one or another of the community 
organizations. There was a dramatic club, a junior league, a sewing 
circle, a baseball club, and a regular cultural evening. In spite of the 
lack of steady employment, none of the homesteaders wanted to 
return to New York City. When economic necessity forced home- 
steaders to move, they always mourned the loss of friends and the 
pleasant social life. Jersey Homesteads, as much as any other New 
Deal community, was a well-defined social organism, with a character 
and a soul all its own. 

Although the homesteaders desired, more than anything else, to 
own their own homes, Jersey Homesteads remained under government 
leases until the final liquidation by the Public Housing Authority. 
The rentals were very low, averaging from about $12 to $16 per month. 
Although Jersey Homesteads had a community manager appointed 
by the Resettlement Administration, it always exhibited more local 
control than most of the other communities. The influence of the 
original sponsors remained very important, with the homesteaders 
surrendering all authority to such leaders as Benjamin Brown. The 
group meetings of the homesteaders were dominated by those leaders, 
who often deliberately defied government officials. Unique among the 
subsistence homesteads projects, Jersey Homesteads was incorporated 
in 1937 as a borough, with its own town government. The first mayor, 
Philip Goldstein, practically became a permanent official, serving many 
years without a salary. 26 

Jersey Homesteads, even as Arthurdale, was a focal point for anti- 
New Deal criticism. Its controversial career invited critics, while 
its co-operative pattern aroused conservatives to an attack upon the 
ideas back of the community. Much of the early controversy was 
heightened by the actions of the homesteads and their leaders, who 
were quick to accuse the government of bad faith and who never 
hesitated to publicize their complaints or their wishes. The fact that 
many of the homesteaders had emigrated from Russia, that 90 per 

26 Ibid., pp. 158-159; Armstrong, "Four-Million Dollar Village," p. 7; New York 
Herald Tribune, June 8, 1937; New York Times, July 13, 1941, p. 28. 

274 Tomorrow a New World 

cent of them were foreign-born, that Brown himself was born in 
Russia and had co-operated with the Soviet Government in 1928, 
was ammunition for the most unethical critics. The Philadelphia In- 
quirer complained that "the American taxpayer is putting up $1,800,000 
to erect a model of a Russian Soviet Commune half way between 
New York and Philadelphia." According to the same editorial, "200 
carefully selected families, headed by a Russian-born little Stalin, 
will be running their 'co-operative.' " 27 To counteract criticism of 
this sort, the homesteaders had Fourth of July celebrations, sang 
patriotic songs, attended Americanization classes, and tried to point 
out the difference between co-operation and communism. 

The most convincing attacks on Jersey Homesteads were directed 
at the high costs, the mistakes in construction, and the failure of the 
co-operatives. The homesteaders and sponsors aided part of this at- 
tack by constantly expressing their fears that the project cost was 
going to be so high that they could never repay the government. On 
July 4, 1936, as the costs and criticism mounted under the Resettle- 
ment Administration construction program, Rabbi Wise, a loyal spon- 
sor, stated: "We will pay back the government every red cent that it 
has invested in this enterprise, even if it takes the rest of our lives 
and the lives of our children." 28 This very quickly became a manifest 
impossibility, and not by the fault of the homesteaders, who surely 
were not expected to pay for the inefficient relief labor or for the 
$200,000 concrete-slab factory. The failure of the concrete-slab method, 
the lockout of visitors at the construction site, the drab appearance 
that was so widely belived would mark the slab-type homes, the loss 
of local tax revenue, and the enormous cost, all influenced Senator 
Warren Barbour of New Jersey to introduce his Senate resolution 
requiring a full, and what was hoped would be an embarrassing, 
report from the Resettlement Administration. 

Many of the New Deal communities were disliked, for one reason or 
another, by the older inhabitants in the surrounding areas. This local 
hostility was very marked at Jersey Homesteads. The type of archi- 
tecture, the extravagance, and the character and nature of the ex- 
pected homesteaders were all assailed by local or, at least, by New 

27 Philadelphia Inquirer, May 7, 1936. 

28 In Lucey, "A Cooperative Town," p. 210. 

Jersey Homesteads 275 

Jersey critics. It was the mistakes at Jersey Homesteads that influenced 
the citizens of Bound Brook to enter their successful injunction against 
the greenbelt city of Greenbrook and thereby almost block the whole 
Resettlement Administration program. In fact, a Hearst newspaper 
reporter circulated a petition in the town of Hightstown request- 
ing a similar injunction against Jersey Homesteads. 29 

It was the cost of Jersey Homesteads, more than that of any other 
project, that gave Senator Harry F. Byrd grounds for attacking the 
extravagance of the Farm Security Administration. Byrd's attack ma- 
terially contributed to the final abolition of the Farm Security Ad- 
ministration. Using information allegedly secured from the General 
Accounting Office, Byrd placed the price of Jersey Homesteads at 
over $4,000,000. The final account by the Farm Security Administra- 
tion listed the total cost as $3,402,382.27, or about $16,516 per unit if 
divided equally among each of the 206 homesteads (both in town 
and on the farms). 30 If it is considered that only 120 families ever 
shared in the numerous community facilities, the total unit cost for 
some of the participating homesteads was over $20,000. Of course 
much of the money was poured into the operation of the factory, 
into experiments in construction, and into the wages of highly in- 
efficient relief laborers. But, in any case, there was no question in the 
mind of anyone, including the officials of the Resettlement Administra- 
tion, that the total cost of Jersey Homesteads represented at least 
three times its actual value. In fact, as early as 1937, the Resettle- 
ment Administration estimated that Jersey Homesteads could be liq- 
uidated for only 27.9 per cent of cost. 31 

In one sense the end of the Jersey Homesteads experiment began 
in September, 1938, when the Farm Security Administration, finally 
realizing that the economic opportunities at Jersey Homesteads were 
not sufficient to attract any more Jewish garmentworkers (at $500 a 
family), began renting seventy-five homes to nonparticipating families 
from the local area. In 1940 the farm, poultry plant, and crops were 
auctioned, with the government bidding in most of the property. After 
having lost money for four years, the farm co-operative was abolished. 

29 Weller, "Land of Milk and Honey," p. 12. 

30 Select Committee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Hearings on the 
Farm Security Administration, 78th Cong., 1st Sess., 1943-1944, p. 1118. 

31 H. W. Truesdell to E. G. Arnold, May 28, 1937, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

276 Tomorrow a New World 

With the factory already in private hands, the co-operative community 
was at an end. 32 

One thing could not be liquidated the community itself, for it 
involved more than economics. In July, 1941, the 102 remaining Jewish 
homesteaders celebrated their fifth anniversary at Jersey Homesteads. 
Some were commuting to other cities for work; others were employed 
in their old factory; all were happy with their homes and home- 
stead plots. Mayor Philip Goldstein, deploring the fact that the home- 
steaders still rented their homes, asked for a homestead association 
for Jersey Homesteads. Such an association had been tentatively ap- 
proved by the Farm Security Administration as early as July 15, 1940, 
but in 1942, before it was ever put into effect, Jersey Homesteads was 
transferred to the Federal Public Housing Authority. 33 This agency 
and its successor, the Public Housing Administration, completed the 
liquidation of the government's investment in Jersey Homesteads by 
selling the homes to individuals after the end of World War II. After 
liquidation, the homesteaders decided to change the name of their 
community to Roosevelt, New Jersey. Jersey Homesteads, long as- 
sociated with controversy and extravagance, disappeared from the map. 
Roosevelt, New Jersey, a name symbolic of a better future in its very 
newness, was also an indication of the homesteaders' gratefulness to 
a recently deceased hero. 

32 New York Times, Sept. 24, 1938, p. 19; Oct. 31, 1939, p. 23; July 3, 1940, 
p. 19. 

33 Ibid., July 13, 1941, p. 28; Memorandum for J. O. Walker, March 16, 1941, 
R.G. 96, National Archives. 


Fender lea Homesteads Something 
Less than a Rural Paradise 

ARTHURDALE, in addition to being the first and most experimental 
of the New Deal communities, was also representative of a particular 
type of community, the stranded workers' community. Jersey Home- 
steads was the only fully co-operative industrial community, but in 
many ways represented the difficulties encountered in the completely 
co-operative rural communities, such as Lake Dick and Casa Grande. 
Less well known by the public, but actually comprising over two- 
thirds of the completed communities, were the all-rural farm com- 
munities and the industrial-type subsistence homesteads communities. 
The hopes and dreams, the trials and tribulations that characterized 
the former can be observed in the first of the farm communities, Pen- 
derlea Homesteads in Fender County, North Carolina. 

The approval of plans for Penderlea by the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads in November, 1933, simply marked the beginning of an- 
other ambitious community project by Hugh MacRae, who started 
the construction of his first organized rural community in 1905. Mac- 
Rae, frequently mentioned in earlier chapters, was an engineer and 
businessman who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Tech- 
nology in 1885. In the next twenty years he amassed a sizable fortune 
in the railroad and public utilities business in the area of his home 
at Wilmington, North Carolina. MacRae imbibed freely of the positiv- 
istic optimism of the turn of the century. He envisioned unending 


278 Tomorrow a New World 

progress through science and the adaptation of experts to all fields 
of endeavor. As a wealthy capitalist, he defended the right, even the 
duty, of individuals to amass wealth, but at the same time he be- 
lieved that humanitarianism was the only acceptable goal of either 
wealth or science. He wanted the idea of public service and public 
morality so to capture the business world that wealth would be 
shared voluntarily for the common good. Philanthrophy, not taxa- 
tion, was the desirable means to social progress. 1 

Even before 1900 MacRae had decided to use part of his wealth to 
initiate farm colonies as demonstrations of a new type of highly 
diversified Southern agriculture and of the social possibilities of farm 
communities. Beginning in 1905 he optioned approximately 453,000 
acres of uncleared, undrained land north of Wilmington and formed a 
company to colonize it. From these options he purchased almost 200,000 
acres, including the future site of Penderlea. After soil analyses and 
a survey by fourteen engineers, MacRae plotted the sites of several 
future colonies. The street systems and drainage were planned, and 
the land was divided into ten-acre farms. MacRae then sent an agent 
to the West to procure colonists. When he failed to find enough Ameri- 
cans interested in the ten-acre, uncleared plots, MacRae turned to 
Europe. His agent sought immigrants in Italy, Poland, England, Hol- 
land, Greece, and Germany. By 1908, when MacRae revealed his 
work to the public, 800 colonists were in residence in six colonies. 
The largest colony, St. Helena, included only Italians. A small colony 
of Greeks at Marathon was soon replaced by Poles. The Dutch settled 
at Van Eden. A few English bachelors formed a short-lived colony 
named Artesia, and the Germans settled New Berlin. The most suc- 
cessful colony was at Castle Hayne, where American colonists were 
joined by several immigrants of various nationalities. 2 

In establishing his colonies MacRae had no precedents to follow. 

1 Hugh MacRae, "Vitalizing the Nation and Conserving Human Units through 
the Development of Agricultural Communities," Annals of the American Academy, 
LXIII (1916), 278; Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, Hearings on 
S. 1800, To Create the Farm Tenant Homes Corporation, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., 
1935, p. 50. 

2 Hearings on S. 1800, p. 61; Edmund de S. Brunner, Immigrant Farmers and 
Their Children (New York, 1929), p. 141; "Farm Colonies near Wilmington, 
N.C.," Carolinas, I (March, 1933), 3; Robert W. Vincent, "Successful Immigrants 
in the South: The Difficult Problem Solved by the Business-like Efforts of One 
Man," World's Work, XVII (1908), 10908-10909. 

Penderlea Homesteads 279 

Elwood Mead had not yet returned to America from Australia with 
his well-defined colonization scheme. As a result MacRae varied his 
methods from colony to colony and learned from his mistakes. The 
Italians at St. Helena, the largest colony, received extensive super- 
vision from the colonization company, which even constructed their 
homes. At other colonies the company did very little development. 
MacRae established an experimental farm on the poorest ground for 
the benefit of all the colonists. He also furnished the early colonists 
with implements, transportation facilities, and a marketing service 
and paid the colonists for the wood they cut in clearing their ten acres. 
A superintendent was provided for each colony. The colonists were 
to pay for their farms through intensive truck farming, receiving clear 
deeds except for a provision to keep the land from ever passing into 
the hands of Negroes. From early failures, such as the quick departure 
of the English bachelors, MacRae decided that only married men 
would make good colonists, that the land should be cleared and even 
planted before settlement, and that, on the other hand, no houses 
should be built by the company. The essentials to success seemed to be 
cheap land, ample credit, scientific planning in advance, careful selec- 
tion of settlers, expert guidance, co-operative activity, and a sociable 
community life. 3 

Castle Hayne, the mixed colony, became the most successful and, 
in MacRae's eyes, the most perfect demonstration of a foolproof method 
of colonization. The colony was based on an intensive, all-year cultiva- 
tion of diversified truck crops by about forty colonists, with a few 
prosperous settlers extending their original ten acres to twenty or 
even thirty. MacRae urged the colonists to invest their profits in in- 
dustrial securities rather than in more land, since he believed it pos- 
sible to make a complete living on a very few acres of ground. At 
Castle Hayne, as at all the MacRae colonies, the settlers grew their 
own subsistence and joined in co-operative endeavors. MacRae be- 
lieved that the success of the colonists was a demonstration to the whole 
South of the advantages of a diversified rather than a one-crop agri- 
culture. He desired up to ten such colonies in each Southern state. 4 

1 3 Vincent, "Successful Immigrants," pp. 10909-10910; Brunner, Immigrant 
Farmers, pp. 142-144; Felice Ferrero, "A New St. Helena," Survey, XXIII (1909), 

4 Hearings on S. 1800, p. 50; Brunner, Immigrant Farmers, pp. 147-151; "Farm 
Colonies near Wilmington, N.C.," pp. 34. 

280 Tomorrow a New World 

In the early twenties the work of Elwood Mead in the California 
farm colonies and the growing popularity of the English garden city 
idea contributed to a vastly increased interest in organized community 
planning, leading, on one hand, to such suburban experiments as 
Radburn, New Jersey, and, on the other, to a long but unsuccess- 
ful attempt to create numerous farm colonies both in the South and 
over the whole nation. As living examples of such colonies, MacRae's 
work in North Carolina took on a national significance. In 1923 he 
and many of the world's outstanding city planners, conservationists, 
and irrigationists, including John Nolen, Thomas Adams, Sir Raymond 
Unwin, Gifford Pinchot, and Elwood Mead, joined in the formation 
of the Farm City Corporation of America. The corporation planned 
to lay out and build a farm city that would combine the advantages 
of town and country. The funds were to come from private investors, 
who would eventually gain a profit when the settlers had repaid the 
purchase price. The corporation desired 8,000 acres of fertile land for 
its first city. The farm city was to include a community center, an 
area for industry, subsistence homesteads around the community cen- 
ter, and outlying farms of increasing sizes. John Nolen and an as- 
sociate planner, Philip W. Foster, actually sketched a farm-city plan 
for a site near the MacRae colonies. This unused plan of 1923 was 
very similar to the one that Nolen later used for Penderlea. 5 

Unfortunately for MacRae's dreams, private investments were not 
forthcoming for the proposed farm city. As a result he joined with 
Elwood Mead in advocating government-supported demonstration 
farm communities for the South. When Mead secured congressional 
approval for the survey of possible sites for these colonies, the MacRae 
colonies were much studied and were cited as examples of success- 
ful colonization. Since none of the legislative measures to establish a 
colonization program was passed by Congress, the farm-city idea had 
to await the New Deal and the subsistence homesteads program. 
MacRae was early considered for the position of Administrator of the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads and, in November, 1933, fairly 
easily secured the approval of the division for a $1,000,000 farm colony 
on part of his land in Pender County. This, the first approved farm 

6 George H. Gall, "Making Farm Life Profitable and Pleasant," National Real 
Estate Journal, XXIV (May 21, 1923), 29-32. 

Penderlea Homesteads 281 

colony, was intended to solve the problems of stranded and sub- 
marginal farmers and of landless tenant farmers. 6 

More than any other colony, Penderlea's conception and early direc- 
tion were influenced by one man MacRae. Under the early, decen- 
tralized plan of administration, MacRae was, very naturally, appointed 
project manager by the local corporation. The corporation's Board of 
Directors included Frank Fritts, general counsel of the Federal Sub- 
sistence Homesteads Corporation and a member of the faculty at 
Princeton; Carl C. Taylor, formerly dean of the Graduate School at 
North Carolina State College, vice-president of the American Country 
Life Association, and an assistant to M. L. Wilson in the Division of 
Subsistence Homesteads; and John Nolen, at that time president of 
the International Federation of Town and Country Planning, a teacher 
in the School of City Planning at Harvard, and a consultant to the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads. As a first step, the local corpora- 
tion purchased 4,550 acres of land from MacRae for $7.10 an acre. 
The Department of Agriculture assisted in surveys and soil analyses, 
the State of North Carolina agreed to furnish roads, and Pender 
County agreed to provide a school. John Nolen, already familiar with 
the area, planned a community for 300 farm families. 7 

MacRae's plan for Penderlea was based on his experience with his 
own colonies. He believed the ten-acre plots large enough to provide 
subsistence and a cash income to be used by the homesteader to 
purchase his homestead. The Division of Subsistence Homesteads was 
building the homes, there was plenty of wood for fuel, the state pro- 
vided roads and education, and the planned community would as- 
sure satisfactory social conditions. What more was needed? The most 
carefully planned of all the rural colonies, Penderlea was laid out 
around a central community center. With the land already forested, 
the houses and roadsides were to remain shaded. The creek and 
drainage areas were also to remain forested and were to be used as 
parks. Most of the small, ten-acre farm plots faced on a road in front 
and a forest belt and creek or ditch in the rear (see Figure 1). The 
local corporation selected the early homesteaders from among local 

6 Gordon Van Schaack, "Penderlea Homesteads: The Development of a Sub- 
sistence Homesteads Project," Landscape Architecture, XV ( 1934-1935 ) , 76. 

7 News Item, Jan. 16, 1934, R.G. 96, National Archives; News Release, n.d., ibid. 

282 Tomorrow a New World 

farmers, basing their selection on farming skills as well as on need. 
MacRae believed that the early selectees were among the "most 
skilled people" in the world. 8 

MacRae personally directed Penderlea only until May, 1934, at which 
time all the subsistence homesteads projects were federalized. Al- 
though he remained a short while longer as a federal employee, Mac- 
Rae's influence soon waned. When his plans for Penderlea were altered, 
his accomplishments became a matter of angry controversy. Since only 
twenty acres of the purchased land was cleared, MacRae had used 
transient labor and rented machinery to clear approximately 1,500 
acres. He had also supervised the construction of sixteen miles of 
roads and of ten frame houses. He had spent $18,000 of federal funds 
for a transient labor camp and $24,000 to establish an experimental 
farm, a fixture he had found necessary on his older colonies. During 
his management he spent $325,000 of the $1,000,000 loan. According 
to MacRae, all 300 homes would have been completed by March, 
1935, if the project had remained under local control. 9 

MacRae, who only with misgivings accepted the idea of govern- 
ment financing for rural colonies, completely revolted at the idea of 
government control. He felt that he had a personal authorization from 
the President to build a community which would revolutionize rural 
life. As a result, he appealed to President Roosevelt after the federal- 
ization order, asking for a special hearing to determine the best type 
of administrative organization for subsistence homesteads. This brought 
a scathing reply from Ickes: "I can not see that it is feasible to hold 
special hearings with project managers for each project before mak- 
ing such administrative changes as we deem desirable." 10 Later Mac- 
Rae, chafing under the federal control of his beloved project, wanted 
to invite Roosevelt, the governor of North Carolina, and newspaper 
reporters to visit Penderlea and see the progress, or lack of it. This 
was directly against the wishes of Ickes and Pynchon, who feared 
embarrassment for the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, since all 
was not well at Penderlea. 11 By this time MacRae was positive that 

8 Van Schaack, "Penderlea Homesteads," pp. 78-80; Hearings on S. 1800, p. 64. 

9 C. E. Pynchon to Oscar Chapman, Jan. 17, 1935, R.G. 48, National Archives; 
Hearings on S. 1800, p. 67. 

10 Ickes to MacRae, May 2, 1934, R.G. 48, National Archives. 

11 Pynchon to MacRae, Nov. 15, 1934, ibid. 

Figure 1. Penderlea Homesteads, Fender County, North Carolina. From 
Landscape Architecture, XV (Jan., 1937), 77. 

284 Tomorrow a New World 

the new directors of the subsistence homesteads program had be- 
trayed his Penderlea. He blamed the government for all the later mis- 
takes, even as the Division of Subsistence Homesteads attributed most 
of the mistakes to early planning errors on the part of MacRae. 

The charges against MacRae were that he picked poor, undrained, 
sour soil that could never repay the cost of clearing, that he was 
careless with his expenditures, and that his ten-acre plots were much 
too small to support profitable farming operations. MacRae argued 
that he could prove that any family with sincere purpose and brains 
could make a complete living on two acres of ground. He described 
Penderlea as the "best-laid-out rural community in America" on "as 
productive land as you can get in the United States." He said he 
"personally would be willing to underwrite the success of every farm 
in that colony and see that the Government got back every dollar." 
MacRae placed the responsibility for all failures at Penderlea on an 
unsympathetic, centralized, urbanized management in the Division of 
Subsistence Homesteads, which could not "build rural communities." 
He believed that Penderlea, under the centralized administration, 
was only of value in showing how not to build a community. 12 Mac- 
Rae turned from Penderlea to unsuccessful efforts to find support for 
a privately sponsored "Family Homesteads, Incorporated," and to at- 
tempts to get administrative backing and loans for a limited-dividend 
corporation which was to develop colonies near Wilmington. Mac- 
Rae, now an old man, never saw his dream of more colonies ful- 
filled. 13 

After centralization, the Division of Subsistence Homesteads initiated 
farm management studies at Penderlea which indicated the insuf- 
ficiency of the ten-acre plots. Accordingly the plans for Penderlea 
were completely revised, with the new plans calling for only 150 
homestead units of approximately twenty acres each. A contract was 
let for sixty-five houses, and some outbuildings were completed by 
May, 1935, when the Resettlement Administration inherited Pender- 
lea. 14 

By December 15, 1935, the Resettlement Administration had com- 
pleted plans for 142 units of twenty acres each at Penderlea. With a 

12 Hearings on S. 1800, pp. 50, 63, 65, 67. 

13 MacRae to M. L. Wilson, Sept. 30, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives; M. L. 
Wilson to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Aug. 31, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

:4 Pynchon to Oscar Chapman, Jan. 17, 1935, R.G. 48, National Archives. 

Penderlea Homesteads 285 

work force of up to 1,800 relief laborers, the Resettlement Administra- 
tion completed the 142 homes, plus barns, hog houses, poultry houses, 
wells, and pump houses by September, 1936. The houses were of one 
story without basements, had four to six rooms, contained baths and 
screened porches, and were heated by fireplaces. Almost one-half of 
the construction budget was expended on further land clearing. Al- 
though this clearing provided relief employment, it was so expensive 
($195,635 for 2,403 acres) that the value of the land was hardly 
sufficient to cover the cost of clearing. 15 

In 1936 and 1937 the Resettlement Administration purchased ad- 
ditional land at Penderlea, enlarging the project to 9,833 acres. As 
the first 142 homes were completed, the Resettlement Administration 
began planning for another 158 units of thirty acres each as an addition 
to the original community designed by Nolen. Actually, only fifty 
additional units were ever added, these being completed in 1938. 
Meanwhile the community center was developed, with its thirty-one- 
room, consolidated county school, which contained a community li- 
brary, craft, music, and band rooms, a special auditorium, a large 
gymnasium, a social and home economics building, a shop, and a 
school-bus garage. Also in the community center were the administra- 
tion building, the community building, a health clinic, a home for 
teachers, a potato-curing house, a cane-syrup mill, a cannery, a co- 
operative store, a large warehouse, a gristmill, a grading house, and a 
furniture shop. The furniture shop not only provided furniture for 
the Penderlea homes, but for some of the other projects. Most of 
the community construction was completed by June, 1938. 16 

With the exception of four or five early homesteaders in the homes 
completed by MacRae, the first group of homesteaders moved into 
Penderlea in the fall of 1936. They occupied their twenty-acre farms 
and almost immediately came under the supervision of farm and 
home management experts. The early homesteaders, who were chosen 
from rehabilitation clients and submarginal farmers, had to sub- 

15 Resettlement Administration, First Annual Report (Washington, 1936), p. 77; 
Resettlement Administration, "Houses," Architectural Forum, LXVI (1937), 490- 
491; C. B. Baldwin to Paul Appleby, Nov. 10, 1939, R.G. 16, National Archives. 

10 Select Committee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Hearings on the 
Farm Security Administration, 78th Cong., 1st Sess., 1943-1944, p. 601; Approved 
Budget Estimate, n.d., R.G. 96, National Archives; Memorandum on Penderlea 
Homesteads, n.d., ibid.; Monthly Report of the Resettlement Administration from 
1937 through 1940, ibid. 

286 Tomorrow a New World 

mit to a medical examination before occupancy. They were fur- 
nished with livestock, seed, feed, fertilizer, and subsistence, for all 
of which they executed personal notes. These notes later led to com- 
plete confusion, since many of the bewildered homesteaders were 
unsure of how much they owed the government. The farms were 
supposed to provide subsistence, to support soil-improvement crops, 
and to allow a cash income from marketable truck crops. In actuality 
the lack of a large local market for truck crops led to the growing of 
such cash crops as tobacco. 17 

By January, 1937, only 112 families were occupying the 142 com- 
pleted homesteads. The remaining houses filled very slowly, with 
seventeen houses still vacant in September. By April, 1938, as the 
extra fifty homes were being completed, only 141 families were in 
residence. Many of these families depended upon construction work 
for an income. A few of the farmers learned skilled trades in con- 
nection with the construction work and consequently felt so much 
above the status of farmers that they employed others to work their 
farms. But when construction ended in 1938, farming was the only 
recourse. The homesteaders, who came to Penderlea expecting to pur- 
chase their own homes, had to submit to the variable-payment, trial- 
type leases and detailed, closely supervised farm and home plans. 
Their income was closely budgeted, with their furnishing loans from 
the Farm Security Administration being disbursed only through a 
joint banking account with the community manager. As a result of 
delinquencies on loan payments, one-sixth of the homestead families 
were forced to leave, or voluntarily left, the project in 1939. Because 
of economic failures or complete dissatisfaction with government poli- 
cies, there was a turnover of over 100 per cent by 1943. 18 

The large school at Penderlea was a consolidated county school, 
drawing part of its children from areas adjacent to Penderlea. The 
Resettlement Administration subsidized the school by furnishing the 
building and by contributing $1,400 a year to the principal's salary. 
The first principal of the school was selected by the Resettlement Ad- 

17 W. M. Healey to C. B. Paris, April 19, 1938, R.G. 96, National Archives; 
C. B. Paris to George S. Mitchell, Feb. 15, 1938, ibid. 

18 Monthly Report of the Resettlement Administration, May, 1938, ibid.; Har- 
old D. Lasswell, "Resettlement Communities: A Study of the Problems of Per- 
sonalizing Administration," n.d., p. 17, ibid.; Hearings on the Farm Security Ad- 
ministration, pp. 602-603. 

Penderlea Homesteads 287 

ministration to begin an "experimental progressive" program, with the 
approval of the county school superintendent. Such practical courses 
as shop, forge work, diesel and automotive mechanics, and metal- 
work were stressed. Whether because of too much enthusiasm on the 
part of the young principal, because of a natural conservatism on 
the part of local parents, both on and off the project, or, as one Farm 
Security Administration investigator concluded, because of enmity 
between the school officials and the project manager, resulting in the 
latter's efforts to discredit the school in the eyes of the homesteaders 
and to stir up sentiment against progressive education, the aroused 
parents, working through a local school committee, fired the principal 
at the end of his first year and secured a more traditional school for 
the community. 19 

As at all rural communities, the great problem at Penderlea was 
how to devise farm plans that would permit the homesteaders not 
only to maintain their new level of living but also allow them to 
purchase their homesteads. To meet this problem the Resettlement 
Administration, in addition to close supervision, initiated several cooper- 
ative enterprises. In June and July, 1937, the Penderlea Mutual Associa- 
tion was formed as a stock company under North Carolina law. It 
received a loan of $30,670 from the Resettlement Administration, 
using the money to operate several consumer and processing co- 
operatives, such as the gristmill, the store, the warehouse, the potato- 
curing house, the vegetable-grading and packing shed, the cane-syrup 
mill, the community cannery, and a filling station. The co-operative 
facilities were later owned by a second co-operative, the Penderlea 
Farms Homestead Association, which borrowed a total of $813,100 
from the Farm Security Administration, mostly for a hosiery mill. 
Of this sum none was repaid by 1943, when the first steps were made 
toward the liquidation of Penderlea. By 1943 the Mutual Association, 
the operating co-operative, had repaid only $7,459.78 of its small loan. 20 

Many of the co-operative facilities were seldom used, including the 
warehouse, cannery, and vegetable-grading shed. Others were mis- 
used. In 1938 the co-operative association was reprimanded by the 
regional office for not answering any correspondence, sending no 

"George Mitchell to Harriett H. Robson, Jan. 19, 1938, R.G. 96, National 
Archives; Lasswell, "Resettlement Communities," pp. 76-77. 

20 Robert W. Strange to Mastin G. White, May 28, 1937, R.G. 96, National 
Archives; A Report on the Condition of Co-operatives, April, 1943, ibid. 

288 Tomorrow a New World 

minutes of meetings for four months, submitting no prescribed forms, 
continuing to grant credit despite positive orders to the contrary, not 
writing down purchase orders, keeping no records on any of the enter- 
prises, not recording toll telephone calls, and frequently repairing 
the gristmill at the expense of the co-operative rather than forcing 
the dealer to make the repairs free of cost. 21 

Since practically every one of the homesteaders was getting farther 
and farther in debt to the government year by year, Penderlea was selected 
in 1938 as the site of one of the five hosiery mills financed by the Farm 
Security Administration. Utilizing a loan of $750,000, the Penderlea 
Farms Homestead Association constructed one of the best hosiery 
mills in the South and entered into a managerial agreement with the 
Dexdale Hosiery Mills. The managing company did not receive any 
fee for management above salaries and a set percentage of profits. 
The mill began operation with silk, but soon had to convert to nylon 
at a heavy cost for new equipment. Then World War II forced an- 
other change to rayon, with even the amount of rayon strictly limited 
by the War Production Board. Wartime also brought a labor shortage, 
with homesteaders seeking lucrative defense jobs at Wilmington and 
elsewhere. Only in 1941 did the mill meet its operating expenses. 
Through 1942 it had lost only $19,549.77, but had deferred all rent 
and interest payments to the Farm Security Administration. It pro- 
vided jobs for up to 100 people, many of whom were not home- 
steaders. By 1943 the Dexdale Mills company was recommending 
a cessation of operations and the liquidation of the mill property. An 
investigation by an experienced hosiery manufacturer revealed man- 
agerial inefficiency and disinterest on the part of the Dexdale com- 
pany. 22 

Because of the large turnover and low morale, the Farm Security 
Administration sent a sociologist to Penderlea in 1940 to study the 
whole problem of personalizing administration. This study resulted 
in a most intimate and authentic report on social conditions in a 
rural colony. The investigator found that the poor morale resulted 
in part from the disillusionment inevitably following the overly high 
expectations that the homesteaders had brought with them to the 

21 C. B. Paris to W. H. Bobbins, Nov. 15, 1938, ibid. 

^Report on Hosiery Mill, n.d., ibid.; Hearings on the Farm Security Adminis- 
tration, pp. 1748-1750, 1762-1763. 

Penderlea Homesteads 289 

new project. They had expected Penderlea to provide them with a 
profitable farm, marketing outlets, an immediate opportunity to begin 
gaining an equity toward the purchase price of their farm, a perfect 
community life with no feuds, factions, or favorites, and co-operative 
stores with low prices and high dividends. They were disappointed 
on almost every count and on none more so than in their constant 
frustration in awaiting a purchase contract. The most clear goal of 
the homesteaders was ownership, whereas new farming skills, better 
farm and home management, co-operative and community participa- 
tion, and social and cultural pursuits were vague goals without any 
real meaning to most of the homesteaders. As annual lease followed 
annual lease, the homesteaders became apprehensive over what they 
would have to pay for their farms. They puzzled over whether the 
government would ever really permit them to buy or, if permitted 
to purchase, whether they would receive clear titles. 23 

The homesteaders at Penderlea had expected a friendly, consistent 
policy on the part of the government, but had found inconsistency, 
conflicts, ambivalence, and, always, delays. Actually the homesteaders 
had very little understanding of government processes. Chance re- 
marks by a government clerk became, in the eyes of the homesteaders, 
either a binding promise or the beginning of a spreading rumor. 
Furthering the misunderstandings were the frequent changes in ad- 
ministration, from MacRae to a centralized Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads to the Resettlement Administration and then to the Farm 
Security Administration. Each change brought new personnel and new 
policies. Inevitably earlier commitments were sometimes forgotten 
or ignored, leaving a legacy of ill will. The homesteaders also be- 
came disillusioned with government-sponsored enterprises. The pack- 
ing shed aroused great hopes, only to end in disuse. The co-operatives 
did not have lower prices and never paid dividends. Since the govern- 
ment made policies for the co-operatives, the homesteaders believed 
that the government had the responsibility to make them pay a profit. 
Even "their" community building was kept locked by the manage- 
ment most of the time, being opened only for scheduled dances on 
Saturday night. 24 

The homesteader, rather than finding economic security, was con- 
stantly frightened by his insecurity. He was afraid to repair his home 

23 Lasswell, "Resettlement Communities," pp. 3-5, 9, 13. * Ibid., pp. 3-7. 

290 Tomorrow a New World 

and farm for fear the government might not justly evaluate the repairs 
in the final sale price. Since his annual lease was a "trial lease," the 
homesteader felt that he was on his "good behavior," leading to 
tension on one hand and to open subservience on the other. The 
homesteader never considered his financial obligations to the govern- 
ment as similar to private debts. He believed that the government 
should deal more gently with him and even perhaps write off part 
of his obligation. Thus he always paid his private debts and post- 
poned his government obligations. When the government did deal 
more strictly with him, the homesteader tended to blame the local 
officials. 25 

The homesteaders at Penderlea resented their lack of participation 
in community government. They felt that the project manager and 
other officials dictated all policy. Very rarely were the homesteaders 
consulted on policy decisions. If the project manager wished to speak 
with a settler, he did not visit the homesteader but rather summoned 
him to appear at his office at a certain hour. Even in the co-operative 
associations the actual decisions were made by representatives of the 
government, and an independent, homesteader-controlled farmers' 
organization met only furtively, fearing Farm Security Administration 
disapproval. In justification of the government officials, it should be 
made clear that the homesteaders lacked even an elemental knowl- 
edge of parliamentary procedure and tended toward factionalism in 
their community alignments. Only an experienced official could have 
led a profitable discussion in their associational meetings. 26 

At Penderlea certain forms of social discrimination also irked the 
homesteaders. Many accusations of favoritism were leveled against the 
project manager, who personally recommended (the equivalent of 
selection) people for employment in the hosiery mill. The manager, a 
college graduate and former extension agent, lived in town and com- 
muted to the project each day. He and his staff often organized 
"oyster roasts" and other social affairs, holding them forty miles from 
the project and inviting only the schoolteachers. He seldom attended 
homestead functions, such as movies and dances. His paternal attitude 
toward the homesteaders was reflected in the following reported state- 
ment: "These people are just like children and you have to treat them 

*Ibid., pp. 10, 16-18. '"Ibid., pp. 14-15, 22-25, 34-35. 

Penderlea Homesteads 291 

that way." 27 On the other hand, some lesser project officials, who 
showed a sincere interest in and a close identification with the 
homesteaders, were well loved. At first the homesteaders were resented 
by the local farmers, who were probably jealous over the good homes 
and other benefits bestowed upon the people in the colony. This out- 
side opposition was lessened by contacts at school, local dances, and 
youth meetings. 28 

Incentives for effort at Penderlea tended to vanish along with the 
loss of faith in the earlier goals and promises. The strongest incentive 
for maintaining payments on loans social pressure was completely 
lacking, since almost every family was delinquent. Furthermore, the 
widespread resentment against the government was not conducive 
to high morale. Most resented was the invasion of privacy resulting 
from the joint banking accounts, the detailed farm and home plans, 
the frequent advice, the multiple forms to fill, the record keeping, 
the inspections by visiting officials, and the fearful submission to 
questioning of all types by both government officials and academic 
researchers. According to the homesteaders, one man went around 
asking people how many pairs of underwear they had. One wife even 
stated that "one of the hardest things to get used to here on the 
project is the conveniences." 29 A schoolboy on the project composed 
the following verse which indicates some of the resentment: 

On the farm we have busted pumps 
And lots of trouble burning stumps, 
While white-collared big shots hang around 
To show the farmer how to tend the ground. 30 

By the end of 1942 the Farm Security Administration was forced 
to make one final alteration at Penderlea. At this time the number of 
farm units was reduced from 192 to 109 larger units, leaving 82 surplus 
houses which were rented to defense workers. To find operators for 
even this number of units the Farm Security Administration had to 
import fifty farmers from the mountains of western North Carolina in 
1943. By this time 159 tenants had moved away from Penderlea, 
mostly from 1939 through 1942. They all left owing the government 
money, in amounts varying from $47 to $3,240 and averaging over 

*lbid., pp. 12, 22, 26, 31. 2S Ibid., pp. 31-33, 38. 

29 Ibid., pp. 36-37, 40-42, 72. 30 Ibid., p. 63. 

292 Tomorrow a New World 

$1,000. The new homesteaders of 1943 each received operating loans 
of from $300 to $800. The old homesteaders, three of whom had 
been on the project since 1935, were, except in two cases, in debt 
to the government for amounts up to $5,031. Yet, for the first time, 
the project was on a sound economic basis, with many homesteaders 
making splendid progress, aided by wartime prices. In most cases the 
farmers had assets that more than covered their debts. As a result of 
this beginning prosperity, the first farming units (nine) were sold 
to homesteaders in March, 1943, at $3,020 each. 31 

The major criticism of Penderlea was its cost. By 1943 the govern- 
ment had expended $2,277,685.60 at Penderlea, or nearly $11,000 for 
each completed family unit. In defense of this large figure, the Farm 
Security Administration pointed to the amount spent by the co- 
operative association, the cost of the community facilities, and the 
unused reserve land. Subtracting those items, it estimated the real 
cost of each homestead to be only $7,990. As if to prove the per- 
versity of statistics, the congressional critics of Penderlea added to 
the costs of Penderlea the amount obviously lost on loans to home- 
steaders, the amount expended in direct relief grants, the loss in 
maintenance and operation, and, most important, the amount of in- 
terest the government had to pay on the borrowed funds invested 
in Penderlea. This raised the total cost to $3,107,122. Since there 
remained only 109 operating units, this made a unit cost of $28,506. 
Counting the approximate $2,000 owed by each homesteader to the 
government and also adding the interest he should have been paying 
on his loans, the total amount each homesteader owed the govern- 
ment, according to critics, was not $7,990 but approximately $35,000. 
Comparable farms in the area were selling for about $3,000. 32 

By December 31, 1944, only forty-eight homesteads had been sold 
at Penderlea, these at an average price of only $3,354. Also sold was 
the hosiery mill, at a good price of $604,000. By June, 30, 1945, sixty- 
six homesteads had been liquidated at an average price of $3,1 10. 33 
The other homesteads were sold in the next two years, during which 

31 Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, pp. 601-603, 605-609, 1089. 

32 Ibid., pp. 489, 609-610. 

83 House Agricultural Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hear- 
ings on Agricultural Department Appropriation Bill for 1946, pt. n, 79th Cong., 
1st Sess., 1945, pp. 519, 535, and Hearings on Agricultural Department Appropria- 
tion Bill for 1947, 79th Cong., 2d Sess., 1946, p. 1414. 

Penderlea Homesteads 293 

time the Farm Security Administration was absorbed by the Farmers' 
Home Administration. Because of the rapid turnover at Penderlea, very 
few of the original homesteaders were still on the project at the time 
of liquidation. The difficulties at Penderlea, both in terms of economic 
insecurity and project management, were all too often duplicated at 
other farming colonies. But Penderlea was unique in two ways: it was 
the first farm colony and, per capita, it was the most expensive. 


Granger Homesteads An Escape 
from Modernity 

FROM the inception of the subsistence homesteads program 
through the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security 
Administration, the community program of the New Deal moved 
ever farther away from the ideological presuppositions of most of the 
back-to-the-land adherents and especially from the explicit, doctri- 
naire philosophy of the distributist school of agrarians. Although the 
ever-pervasive idea of the superiority of family-based agriculture was 
largely adhered to, and even though fee simple ownership was seri- 
ously challenged in only a limited number of projects, the leaders in 
the community-building program were not at all sympathetic with 
the strong emphasis on individualism and the ever-present distrust of 
government that characterized the agrarians. As a result of this ideo- 
logical divergence, Ralph Borsodi, the most dogmatic of distributists, 
quit his project at Dayton in disgust over governmental policies. At 
Penderlea a less dogmatic agrarian, Hugh MacRae, soon resigned from 
the directorship of his special project. Only in the case of Granger 
Homesteads in Iowa did the agrarian, distributist school of thought 
remain important in the actual development of a New Deal commu- 
nity. This was through the work of one man, Father Luigi G. Ligutti, 
a member of and later head of the National Catholic Rural Life Con- 


Granger Homesteads 295 

ference and one of the most influential of American agrarians and dis- 

From M. L. Wilson through Tugwell, Alexander, and Baldwin, the 
leaders of the community program were at one in accepting the in- 
dustrial revolution and its effects on both city and country. They all, 
with varying types of reactions, disclaimed any divine or absolute 
sanctity for various political, economic, and social institutions that had 
survived from a nonindustrial past and had seemingly proved insuffi- 
cient for modern man. They all desired new, better-suited institutions 
which, in most cases, they wished to achieve through the instrumen- 
tality of the federal government. M. L. Wilson was unique in empha- 
sizing the necessity of, and the difficulty in, reconciling the past with 
the present and in exhibiting a profound sympathy for, and a senti- 
mental attachment to, many of the values and many of the institutions 
of an older America. He was particularly anxious that reforms be 
thoroughly democratic in execution and, in the end, enhance democ- 
racy. Tugwell was bitter in his repudiation of past institutions and 
values and most enthusiastic and thoroughgoing in his reforms. Tradi- 
tion suffered at his hands, and in the hands of his successors. 

To the distributist agrarians, one of the most reactionary groups in 
America, industrialism was the great enemy of mankind. Modern man, 
enslaved by the machine and the centralized factory, could find salva- 
tion only in a return to a decentralized economic system which would 
permit each man access to wealth-producing property. State socialism, 
or bureaucratic collectivism, simply represented another type of slav- 
ery, whatever its doubtful economic benefits. Thus, the distributists 
erected as an economic ideal the agrarian nation of small farmers 
envisioned by Jefferson. As a whole, the agrarians were authoritarian 
and moralistic. Institutions, such as private property, were sacred 
either because ordained by God, because of a revered tradition, or 
because they fulfilled an ethical purpose in man's life. Yet, separated 
from a concept of moral responsibility, such institutions could be cor- 
rupted by selfish individuals, such as had been the case with modern 
capitalism, which the distributists denounced as immoral and vulgar. 
Their reaction to modern society was really one of moral and aesthetic 
repugnance, springing from an absolutist concept of man and the 
natural world. Reform did not mean, in fact could not mean, new in- 
stitutions, since the traditional institutions were firmly rooted in real- 

296 Tomorrow a 'New World 

ity. Reform could mean only moral reform, a renewed sense of re- 
sponsibility, a faithful return to traditional ideals, a purification of 
corrupted institutions. Such personalized reform had to spring directly 
from individuals, working perhaps in small, localized groups. Large, 
centralized governments could and should provide the necessary 
means to this reform; they must not direct or control the reformation. 

Besides being the one project that accurately reflected the distrib- 
utist influence, Granger Homesteads was also one of the most success- 
ful of the New Deal communities. Arthurdale, Jersey Homesteads, and 
Penderlea, although the most publicized of the communities, were also 
the ones that suffered the most delays, exhibited the most mistakes, 
and cost the most money. To judge all the communities by these three 
would be most unfair. Some of the industrial homesteads, a group of 
which Granger was a part, were constructed with little delay and few 
errors. Many, such as Longview and El Monte, repaid or nearly re- 
paid the government's investment. Others, and notably Granger, ful- 
filled most of the objectives of the subsistence homesteads program, 
even though they did not liquidate at or near cost. 

Father Ligutti came to Granger, Iowa, a farm village of about 300 
inhabitants, in 1926 to take over the pastorate of the local Catholic 
church. Granger was located in a coal-mining area north of Des 
Moines. Several hundred miners worked in nine local coal mines, liv- 
ing in five different mining camps, with sordid, dismal four-room 
houses, no churches, poor schools, and no areas for recreation. During 
the depression the miners, at best, worked only during the winter 
months, receiving relief payments for the rest of the year. Ligutti, a 
member of the Catholic Rural Life Conference and a convinced back- 
to-the-lander, was very anxious to move the miners onto the land as 
part-time farmers, but had no means to do this until the organization 
of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. The Granger area then 
seemed ideally suited for a homestead project. In addition to the needy 
miners, who had the required part-time employment, there was plenty 
of good Iowa farm land, a village with community facilities, and, very 
important, the nearby Iowa State College, which could lend advice 
and assistance. In September, 1933, Ligutti got in touch with the Di- 
vision of Subsistence Homesteads about a project for the Granger 
area. 1 

1 "Soil Defeats Poverty, No. 19 Granger Homesteads, Granger, Iowa," Scho- 
lastic, XXXIX (Nov. 10, 1941), 14; Luigi G. Ligutti, "The Story of the Granger 

Granger Homesteads 297 

Ligutti's original plan was for a part-time farming community, 
which would accommodate fifty families on five-acre garden plots, 
all near the churches and schools of Granger. He desired a careful 
selection of settlers from among those employed part time and wanted 
to limit the cost of each homestead to $2,000. On November 27, 1933, 
Ligutti consulted with the president and other officials of Iowa State 
College, receiving promises of aid. He also received wide public sup- 
port from the Catholic Church, labor leaders, coal companies, and 
even the Iowa legislature. Local sponsors, in addition to Ligutti, in- 
cluded an editor, a banker, an attorney, and a physician, all Protes- 
tants. On December 13, 1933, a detailed plan for the project was sub- 
mitted to the Division of Subsistence Homesteads in accordance with 
early policies in the division. The plan was tentatively approved in 
February, 1934, with the Iowa State College making the land surveys 
of a carefully selected tract of land about one-fourth of a mile from 
Granger. This tract of approximately 225 acres was visited by Carl C. 
Taylor of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads and was appraised 
by the Federal Land Bank. Final approval for the project was secured 
on March 4, 1934, with a promise of a $100,000 loan. The loan request, 
which was soon raised to $125,000, was approved on July 16, 1934. 2 

In conformity with the early policies of the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads, as well as with the personal views of Ligutti, a local 
homesteads corporation was formed in March, 1934. This local corpora- 
tion planned to allow the homesteaders to construct their own homes 
under the self-help idea, but almost as soon as the corporation was 
formed it had to accept more supervision from Washington. A memo- 
randum of April 1, 1934, limited the corporation to guidance and su- 
pervision, with the real direction being placed in a project manager, 
who was appointed on May 1, 1934. Complete centralization later in 
May ended all the authority on the part of the local corporation. This 
federalization, although stripping Ligutti and his friends of any official 
status, did not result in any serious conflict between the Division of 

Homesteads," Iowa Bureau Farmer, II (Feb., 1938), 7; Raymond P. Duggan, A 
Federal Resettlement Project Granger Homesteads (Washington, 1937), pp. 21, 
35; Russell Lord and Paul H. Johnstone, A Place on Earth: A Critical Appraisal 
of Subsistence Homesteads (Washington, 1942), pp. 106-107. 

2 Duggan, A Federal Resettlement Project, pp. 31-32, 35-39, 41-43; W. C. 
Taylor, "Priest Directs Allotment Plan: Colony in Iowa Coal Town," Christian 
Century, LI (1934), 568. 

298 Tomorrow a New World 

Subsistence Homesteads and the local sponsors. Ligutti continued to 
exert a tremendous influence on project management and later became 
the godfather of the homesteaders. The Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads continued to seek his advice and welcome his support. Yet 
Ligutti deplored the centralization, seeing in it many dangers, such 
as unwarranted interference from Washington and an unprecedented 
interference by the government in the private affairs of citizens. He 
expressed his view of the role of the state as follows: "Indeed it is a 
familiar and well-tested axiom that a government governs best which 
governs least. It is the duty of the State to provide sufficient means to 
its citizens in order that they, by diligent application, may secure for 
themselves temporal prosperity." 3 

The development of Granger Homesteads was not without mistakes, 
but was certainly less eventful than most of the other projects. The 
topographical surveys were made by Iowa State College, with the 224 
acres of land being divided into fifty homestead plots of from 2.32 to 
8.65 acres. The final purchase of the land was long delayed, since the 
early appraisal had not included one small section and had to be re- 
done, as had to be the original survey. Meanwhile the county had 
agreed to furnish roads; this necessitated a decision from the Attorney 
General, which was not received until September, 1934. Finally, one 
owner refused to sell until October. The final purchase price was 
$27,365.99, or approximately $122.00 an acre. One other problem de- 
layed construction. The Division of Subsistence Homesteads originally 
planned to construct prefabricated, one-story homes, but ran into the 
determined opposition of the local sponsors, who insisted on full base- 
ments to satisfy the desires of the homesteaders. The end result of the 
controversy was an increase in the original loan to $175,000 in order 
to cover the added cost of basements. After the receipt of several 
bids, the actual contract for the construction of the fifty homes was let 
on January 24, 1935, for $86,130, plus an extra $1,125 for the installa- 
tion of plumbing. 4 

The construction at Granger was rapid. With approximately 200 
laborers employed, the wood-frame homes were completed by Octo- 

3 Duggan, A Federal Resettlement Project, pp. 41-44; Luigi G. Ligutti and 
John C. Rawe, Rural Roads to Security: America's Third Struggle for Freedom 
(Milwaukee, 1940), pp. 173-174. 

4 Duggan, A Federal Resettlement Project, pp. 89-94, 97-99; Pynchon to Ickes, 
Dec. 28, 1934, and Feb. 5, 1935, R.G. 48, National Archives. 

Granger Homesteads 299 

ber, 1935. The homes had from four to six rooms, with the five- and 
six-room homes including a second floor. All had full basements which 
contained the hot-air furnaces and the hot- water tanks. The home- 
steader had his choice of either a barn or a combination garage and 
poultry house. Only twelve chose the barn. The outbuildings cost 
$11,760. Water for each house was supplied by individual wells and 
electric pumps, which were housed in small pump houses. The pumps 
froze the first year and had to be placed lower in the ground. Delay 
over electric supply forced the homesteaders to wait until December 
15, 1935, before moving into their new homes. 5 

The homesteaders at Granger were first selected by a local commit- 
tee, headed by Ligutti, and then eventually approved by the Division 
of Subsistence Homesteads. The Department of Economics and Soci- 
ology at Iowa State prepared a questionnaire and application blank 
for the committee and furnished a social worker for the personal in- 
terviews. Later, new forms were supplied by the Division of Subsis- 
tence Homesteads. Despite the forms, however, selection was largely 
based on the personal knowledge of the applicants by Ligutti and 
others on the committee, rather than on arbitrary criteria. Several of 
the applications approved at the local level were refused acceptance 
at Washington, in some cases because of incomes in excess of $1,500. 6 

Forty-one of the fifty family heads selected were miners or mine 
clerks. The others included a farmer, a bookkeeper, a barber, a brick- 
layer, a mechanic, a carpenter, a railroad brakeman, and a streetcar 
operator. All were employed part time, with yearly incomes ranging 
from $600 to $1,720. Most significantly, they represented several na- 
tionalities. Eighteen families were Italian, eleven were Croatian, and 
at least one each was Austrian, Lettish, Lithuanian, Slovakian, Irish, 
Dutch, English, and American. Thirty-three families were Catholic. 
In many cases the families were large, ranging up to thirteen mem- 
bers. Altogether there were 252 people. The homesteaders were en- 
thusiastic about the project, a majority applying for a homestead in 
order to achieve homeownership. 7 

The objective of Granger Homesteads was the improvement of both 

5 Duggan, A Federal Resettlement Project, pp. 93-94, 101, 104-105. 

6 Ibid., pp. 41-49; Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 108. 

7 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 107; Ligutti, "The Story of the 
Granger Homesteads," p. 7; Duggan, A Federal Resettlement Project, pp. 53-72. 

300 Tomorrow a New World 

the economic and social conditions of the homesteaders. This was to 
be accomplished by teaching husbandry and subsistence farming, by 
forming group endeavors in order to encourage thrift, good manage- 
ment, and co-operation, and by organizing formal and informal social 
organizations to develop a consciousness of community. All these ob- 
jectives were at least partially realized, none more so than subsistence 
agriculture. Part-time farming at Granger was probably more success- 
ful than in any other project. The large families, the good soil, the 
inherent love of the land present in many of the Europeans, the lack 
of industrial employment during the summer growing season, and the 
competent advice from Ligutti, Iowa State College, and the project 
manager were all contributing factors in the success. In the first year 
of occupancy the homestead plots yielded an estimated $1,190 worth 
of vegetables and $2,485 worth of field crops. Every homesteader had 
a garden, eighteen already had one or more cows, seven families had 
hogs, and thirty-nine had poultry. By 1939 the average annual value 
of garden crops per family was $300. By then the orchards were be- 
ginning to produce and biodynamic compost heaps were being tried. 
At the end of 1940 the homesteaders owned 36 cows and 195 hogs, and 
in that year the women canned 40,000 quarts of food. By 1941 there 
were 65 cows and 350 hogs. No one was on relief after 1935. 8 

Much of the credit for molding diverse families and nationalities 
into a close-knit community at Granger belonged to Father Ligutti. 
He preached to the homesteaders on Sunday, taught them in the 
parochial schools on weekdays, lectured them on co-operation, at- 
tended their meetings, visited their homes, and guarded their morals. 
For different ideological reasons, Ligutti and the other members of 
the Catholic Rural Life Conference put as much stress on the com- 
munity and on co-operation as did Tugwell and other leaders in the 
Resettlement Administration. Whereas economic necessity and social 
need justified government support for co-operatives in the eyes of 
Tugwell, Ligutti viewed co-operation not only as a possible economic 
boon but as a moral compulsion. To him co-operation was almost 
synonymous with unselfishness. He said: "We consider willingness to 

8 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 108-110; Duggan, A Federal Re- 
settlement Project, pp. 108-112; Edward Skillin, Jr., "Granger Homesteads," 
Commonweal, XXXII (1940), 94-95; C. Edward Wolf, "Granger's Fifth Birthday," 
ibid., XXXIII (1941), 348; "Soil Defeats Poverty," p. 14. 

Granger Homesteads 301 

help, Christian charity, and the golden rule as essentials for individual 
success or for the community advancement. The above are essentials. 
The people must regard themselves as the main spokes in the wheel of 
success or failure." 9 Much of Ligutti's view of the community, and 
even more the views of some of his colleagues, harked back to the 
corporate society of the Middle Ages, before the acquisitive rationale 
of capitalism had captured men's minds. To Ligutti, property and 
human industry had no moral justification apart from use or need and 
were sinful if directed toward mere accumulation as an end in itself. 
Co-operation resulting from individual obedience to a God-given 
moral law may be very different from co-operation based on a frank 
acceptance of utilitarian ends and on the use of the leveling power 
of government, but, in any case, it too is co-operation. In their mutual 
hatred of capitalism and their mutual desire for co-operative institu- 
tions, Tugwell and Ligutti could unite. 

Co-operative organization at Granger was less ambitious, but more 
successful, than at most other projects. The largest co-operative was 
the one for buying, selling, and manufacturing. It permitted savings in 
the purchase of seed, feed, and fertilizer and promoted the economical 
sale of canned goods. In 1939 its members borrowed a modest $800 
from the Farm Security Administration for a cannery. A second co- 
operative owned some heavy farm machinery which was used by all 
the homesteaders. Perhaps most successful was the credit union, which 
made small loans available to the homesteaders for the purchase of 
livestock and other necessities. The financial success of these co- 
operatives may have resulted from their slow, conservative growth 
based on acceptance and real need. 10 

A socially integrated community at Granger had to be achieved in 
the face of obvious divisions and cliques based on kinship, differing 
nationalities, native languages, and old-world customs. Many of the 
homesteaders spoke little English, and some of the housewives lived 
in the basements, decorating their first floor with needlework, photo- 
graphs, and bric-a-brac in typical European fashion. The social cleav- 
age was slowly broken down by adult classes, attendance at lectures 
by Iowa State experts, co-operative organization, attendance at the 
Catholic Church, attendance by the children at the local parish school, 

Ligutti and Rawe, Rural Roads to Security, p. 153. 
10 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 110-111. 

302 Tomorrow a New World 

and community athletics. Most of the community guidance was left 
to Ligutti and the community manager, although in 1939 the Farm 
Security Administration contributed a new community center, which 
gave the homesteaders a meeting place. Perhaps the most important 
social event of the year at Granger Homesteads was the annual fair 
in August. Here the homesteaders all co-operated, displaying farm 
products and craftwork, hearing speeches, and watching athletic 
events and folk dances performed in old-world costumes. 11 

The educational and handicraft activities at Granger Homesteads 
were largely under the direction of Ligutti and were centered in the 
local Catholic school, which was in the nearby village of Granger. 
Ligutti advocated a new type of homestead school where there could 
be training in religious motivation for the new way of life, in problems 
of property, liberty, and democracy, in co-operation, in health, educa- 
tion, and recreation, in scientific farming methods, and in home pro- 
duction. He practically converted his parochial school into just such 
an experiment. The boys from the homesteads learned arts and crafts 
in the school shop, while the girls learned to knit, weave, sew, and 
care for children as a preparation for "Home Life on the Land." Ac- 
cording to Ligutti, "women have been so constituted by God that they 
lose much unless home life is their ideal." When Ligutti left Granger 
in 1941 to become executive secretary of the National Catholic Rural 
Life Conference, his successor in the parish, Father John J. Gorman, 
continued the unique educational program. 12 

One objective of Ligutti, the other local sponsors, and the home- 
steaders homeownership was long unfulfilled. The homesteaders 
were under Temporary licensing agreements until 1942, when a local 
homestead association (the last one formed by the Farm Security 
Administration) assumed title to the project and made purchase con- 
tracts with the homesteaders. The delay was caused by constantly 
worsening economic conditions in the low-grade Iowa coal mines. 
Year by year the Granger family heads found less and less employment 
until a wartime boom relieved the employment problem. The tempo- 

u Duggan, A Federal Resettlement Project, pp. 140-145; Lord and Johnstone, 
A Place on Earth, pp. 111-112. 

12 Ligutti and Rawe, Rural Roads to Security, p. 114; Ligutti, "The Story of the 
Granger Homesteads," p. 8. 

Granger Homesteads 303 

rary licensing agreements averaged $15.73 a month, with considerable 
delinquency resulting in seasons of unemployment. The economic 
conditions at Granger provoked a desire either for a factory at the 
homesteads or for a co-operative farm, which, very naturally, was ad- 
vocated by Ligutti. Neither plan was implemented, although land for 
the farm was appraised. 13 

Granger Homesteads was most extensively publicized through the 
Catholic press and thus was believed by many people to be the nearest 
thing to Utopia imaginable. In Des Moines and surrounding areas of 
Iowa the project evoked the usual curiosity, with many people visit- 
ing the project, especially at fair time. The villagers in Granger were 
more hostile to the project, partly because of jealousy toward the 
homesteaders, partly because the project did not lead to a large in- 
crease in local business, and also because they believed that the gov- 
ernment was coddling the homesteaders. The homesteaders them- 
selves were often apprehensive about economic opportunities and 
about their lack of ownership, but liked their homes, as a whole kept 
them in good repair, and seemed to appreciate the opportunities given 
them by the government. 14 

Granger Homesteads cost the government approximately $216,- 
189.87, or about $4,324 per homestead unit. The cost probably very 
closely approximated the value of the homesteads in 1942, although 
they were sold to the homestead association for just less than $100,000, 
which was based on the ability of the homesteaders to pay. Just after 
transference to the homestead association, Granger Homesteads was 
turned over to the Federal Public Housing Authority for the collec- 
tion of payments on the purchase contract. With wartime prosperity 
the homesteaders made less and less use of their subsistence plots for 
truck crops, partly because of a lack of time. Instead they increased 
the field crops and the number of farm animals. The original commu- 
nity plan was protected by deed restrictions. As time passed, the local 
hostility slowly lessened. In 1956 approximately thirty-five of the origi- 
nal families were still on the project. The co-operatives were inactive 
with the exception of the credit union. 15 The following evaluation of 
Granger, made in 1942, is probably still appropriate: 

13 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, pp. 113-116. "Ibid., p. 117. 

15 Letter to author from Father John J. Gorman, Nov. 5, 1956. 

304 Tomorrow a New World 

Granger Homesteads is no Utopia nor will it ever be. In all the idealistic 
planning of the subsistence-homesteads program there was no thought of 
making gifts, there was only the thought of providing opportunities. At 
Granger, these opportunities can be realized only through a program of hard 
work, education, and self-denial. Eighty percent of the original families at 
the end of 6 years are still pursuing such a program, in the hope and be- 
lief of eventual security for themselves and their descendents. With the pro- 
gram admittedly an experiment, only the objectives were defined. Methods 
and procedures were to be worked out as necessity arose. At Granger, the 
methods have been sound and the objectives are gradually being attained. 
Six years is not a long time in which to effect great changes in patterns of 
human behavior. 16 

16 Lord and Johnstone, A Place on Earth, p. 118. 


The Greenbelt Towns 

IN the greenbelt towns the community idea was applied to urban 
planning and led to the three largest, most ambitious, and most signifi- 
cant communities of the New Deal. The greenbelt towns remain the 
grandest monuments of Rexford G. Tugwell's work in the Resettle- 
ment Administration. In world- wide influence they rank high among 
New Deal accomplishments; in the field of public works they were 
hardly excelled, even by the Tennessee Valley Authority, in imagina- 
tion, in breaking with precedents, and in broad social objectives. They 
represented, and still do represent, the most daring, original, and 
ambitious experiments in public housing in the history of the United 
States. Although only three of approximately 100 New Deal communi- 
ties, the greenbelt towns absorbed over one-third of the total cost and 
nearly one-fourth of the total settlers of the whole community pro- 

The three completed greenbelt cities represented the culmination 
of the garden city movement in America. They remain the nearest 
American approximation of Ebenezer Howard's garden city idea and 
were the direct successors of the housing and planning experiment by 
garden city exponents at Radburn, New Jersey. They combined the 
principal ideas of Howard with the new, automobile-inspired plan- 
ning techniques first attempted at Radburn. The two planners of Rad- 
burn, Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, both participated in the Re- 


306 Tomorrow a New World 

settlement Administration program. Tugwell, although acknowledging 
the debt to Howard and the English garden city movement, empha- 
sized the fact that the greenbelt idea also came from a study of con- 
temporary population movements which showed a steady growth in 
the periphery of cities. He believed that the suburban movement, then 
a new, unexploited frontier, gave the best chance ever offered for the 
governmental planning of a favorable working and living environ- 
ment. Past opportunities for federal planning had been ignored, with 
urban slums and rural poverty the results. This new area offered a last 
chance. Tugwell believed that there should be 3,000 greenbelt cities 
instead of only three. 1 

Most of the arguments for garden cities were used in defending the 
greenbelt towns. They were officially described as "demonstrations of 
the combined advantages of country and city life for low-income rural 
and industrial families/' 2 They were to be the means for escaping 
the sprawling, ugly cities, with their high land costs, speculation and 
antiquated street patterns. For the farmers in the greenbelt, the new 
towns were to bring markets, an end to the economic ills of bad distri- 
bution, and relief from social and cultural starvation. They were to 
demonstrate a new type of community planning and a better land use 
in suburban areas. They were to demonstrate in practice the sound- 
ness of the garden city idea and were to provide low-rent housing in 
healthful surroundings for low-income families. Beyond these long- 
range objectives, they were to provide immediate work relief for the 
unemployed in the area of three large cities and were, through the 
use of building materials, indirectly to stimulate employment through- 
out the country. 3 

The greenbelt city, as conceived by Tugwell, was to be a complete 
community of a limited size, encircled by a greenbelt of farms, owned 
collectively, well planned, close to employment, in a pleasant setting, 

1 Rexford G. Tugwell, "New Frontier: The Story of Resettlement," Chicago 
Sunday Times, April 19, 1936, and "The Meaning of the Greenbelt Towns," New 
Republic, XC (1937), 43. 

2 U.S. Senate, Resettlement Administration Program, Document no. 213, 74th 
Cong., 2d Sess., 1936, p. 7. 

3 Albert Mayer, "Greenbelt Towns: What and Why," American City, LI (May, 
1936), 59; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration, "Green- 
belt Communities," a pamphlet (Washington, 1938), p. 1; Clarence Stein, Toward 
New Towns for America (Liverpool, 1951), p. 101; Data compiled by W. C. 
Moore, Aug. 19, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

Greenbelt Towns 307 

with an abundance of light, air, and space, with safety assured for the 
children, with common utilities, with gardens, and with schools and 
playgrounds. Since the subsistence feature of the other suburban com- 
munities was not emphasized in the greenbelt cities and since they 
were planned as full cities, with eventual populations of up to 10,000, 
they were more directly related to the urban housing programs than 
any other communities. Yet they represented a special kind of housing. 
They were planned as the type of community housing best designed to 
place land, houses, and people together in a way to strengthen the 
foundations of the whole economic and social structure of society. The 
greenbelt towns differed from Public Works Administration and other 
public housing in being outside cities; in occupying extensive sites; in 
having farms, gardens, forests, and wildlife; in their distinctive rural 
accent; in being for agricultural workers as well as for industrial work- 
ers; and, most important, in being complete community developments, 
with streets, public utilities, schools, parks in fact, completely new 
towns. 4 

A provision for greenbelt towns was included in the executive order 
creating the Resettlement Administration. They had long been a topic 
of interest with both Tugwell and Roosevelt. As soon as the Resettle- 
ment Administration was organized, plans for the greenbelt cities were 
pushed more assiduously than any other aspect of the resettlement 
program. The Suburban Resettlement Division studied the economic 
background of 100 cities in the United States, learning the rate of 
population growth, the numbers employed in industry, wages paid, 
population trends after 1900, volume of manufacturing, and the diver- 
sity of industries and occupations. From these 100 cities, twenty-five 
were picked for further study. In July, 1935, an ambitious and enthusi- 
astic Tugwell envisioned greenbelt towns for all twenty-five of these 
cities, but he never received nearly the appropriation desired. As a 
result these twenty-five cities were visited by industrial engineers, who 
studied the outskirts for greenbelt sites and tested the attitudes of the 
local citizens. In September, Roosevelt approved eight greenbelt proj- 
ects involving a cost of $68,000,000, but the Resettlement Administra- 

4 Tugwell, "Meaning of the Greenbelt Towns," p. 42; Mayer, "Greenbelt 
Towns: What and Why," p. 59; Will W. Alexander, "Housing Activities of the 
Resettlement Administration," Housing Officials' Yearbook, 1937 (Chicago, 1937), 
p. 20; Memorandum initialed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, n.d., R.G. 96, National 


308 Tomorrow a New World 

tion received only $31,000,000 for greenbelt cities, necessitating a re- 
duction in plans to five cities. After plans for a proposed greenbelt city 
near St. Louis were dropped because of disagreement with the St. 
Louis Plans Commission, the program was reduced to four communi- 
ties on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, Ohio, Milwau- 
kee, Wisconsin, and New York City. Before construction began, the 
last was blocked by a court injunction. 5 

After the selection of four urban areas as suitable for greenbelt 
cities, the actual suburban sites were selected on the basis of a careful 
study of population trends, topography, land prices, and availability 
to employment. On this basis the sites were selected for the future 
Greenbelt at Berwyn, Maryland, about seven miles from Washington, 
for Greenhills, a site about five miles north of Cincinnati, and for 
Greendale, a valley three miles southwest of Milwaukee. The ill-fated 
Greenbrook was to have been near Bound Brook, New Jersey, in the 
New York metropolitan area. Meanwhile a staff of town planners, 
architects, and engineering designers had been assembled. Land was 
quickly optioned at the selected sites and, even as plans were hurriedly 
made ready, the Construction Division moved into the forests north 
of Washington and began work on Greenbelt in October, 1935, less 
than a month after the approval of the greenbelt program by Presi- 
dent Roosevelt. "A new chapter in American town planning and 
community architecture" was under way. 6 

The Suburban Resettlement Division was completely responsible 
for the planning of the greenbelt cities. Under its head, John S. Lansill, 
were four relatively autonomous planning teams, one for each city. 
Since the greenbelt cities were experimental and demonstrational, the 
vertical form of organization, which, except for a few over-all policies, 
permitted complete freedom to each team of planners, was adopted 
in order to allow the maximum possibility for new ideas and new ap- 
proaches. Each greenbelt city became a distinct experiment in itself. 
Each planning team was headed by a group of planning principals, 
each of equal rank. These included one or more town planners, one 
or more engineers, one or more architects, and a regional co-ordinator, 

5 "Greenbelt Towns," Architectural Record, LXXX (1936), 216; Rexford G. 
Tugwell to Harry Hopkins, July 18, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

6 "Greenbelt Towns," Architectural Record, LXXX, 215-217; Resettlement Ad- 
ministration, Interim Report, p. 17. 

Greenbelt Towns 309 

who maintained liaison with local agencies in the project area and 
between the planners and Lansill. On a large tract of land, which 
would permit unified ownership, the planners and architects were 
directed to create a community for low-income families, designed to 
encourage the kind of family and community life not previously en- 
joyed by these families. They were not to plan for a coercive, theoreti- 
cal, or untested type of discipline. They were to plan for corporate 
ownership, for perpetual leasing, and for a municipal government 
suited to the local area. They were to develop a land-use plan for the 
whole tract, were to devise a system of rural economy co-ordinated 
with the land-use plan for the rural belt, and were to integrate the 
plans of the rural and urban areas. Beyond this they were on their 
own. 7 

The Suburban Resettlement Division was finally lodged in the ex- 
travagant old Walsh mansion which had formerly belonged to a multi- 
millionaire, the late Senator Edward B. McLean. The drafting rooms, 
in which the homes of the poor were to be designed, surrounded a 
monumental marble staircase said to simulate the rococo central hall 
of the Atlantic liner on which the Senator had made his first trip 
abroad. Halfway up the stairs the planners collided with a "monstrous 
sculptural group of naked figures, so bulky and heavy that the govern- 
ment could not afford to resettle it." Here the young architects and 
planners at first produced designs that seemed destined for West- 
chester villas, but, ultimately, created "a great and unified beauty out 
of essential requirements and simple designs." 8 Critics pointed to the 
early confusion in the Walsh mansion, the constant shifting of furni- 
ture, the scarcity of drawing paper, the expensive equipment, and the 
lack of clear plans and of co-ordination between planning teams. 9 

Although construction began on the greenbelt cities in October, 
1935, it was not until the spring of 1936 that extensive progress was 
made. The early construction, especially at Greenbelt, was delayed 
because of a lack of co-ordination between the planning staff and the 
construction crews. As the first work began at Greenbelt, the Construc- 
tion Division did not know exactly what type of project was planned. 
Final plans were also delayed by the failure of the concrete-slab con- 
struction attempted at Hightstown and originally considered for Green- 

Stein, Toward New Towns, pp. 102-103. * Ibid., p. 102. 

New York Sun, July 11, 1936. 

310 Tomorrow a New World 

belt. But in 1936 and 1937 the progress was rapid, with an average 
monthly employment of over 7,000 on the three projects. At Greenbelt 
the construction program absorbed all the unemployed relief labor 
in Washington and in the adjacent Maryland counties. The first units 
were occupied at Greenbelt in September, 1937, at Greenhills in May, 
1938, and at Greendale in June, 1938. When completed the three proj- 
ects contained 2,267 family units and complete community facilities, 
all costing over $36,000,000. 10 

One project, Greenbrook, never proceeded beyond the planning and 
land-option stage because of the successful opposition of local citizens, 
which culminated in the court injunction that was sustained by the 
District of Columbia Court of Appeals in May, 1936. Greenbrook had 
been planned by Henry Wright, coplanner of Radburn, and was the 
only one of the four greenbelt cities that would probably have had 
local industries, making it a complete garden city such as Letchworth 
rather than an economically dependent satellite. The Greenbrook de- 
cision practically assured that the greenbelt program would not be 
expanded beyond the three cities already under construction and, at 
the same time, placed each of them in danger of similar local injunc- 

Greenbelt, Maryland, was the first of the greenbelt cities to be 
completed, was slightly the largest of the cities, and, perhaps because 
of its proximity to Washington, received much the larger share of 
publicity. For $1,124,480 the Resettlement Administration purchased 
12,259 acres of submarginal land located next to the Department of 
Agriculture's National Research Center near College Park, Maryland. 
Of this large acreage, 8,659 acres were placed under the jurisdiction 
of the Research Center, which formed part of the greenbelt, and 
3,600 acres were retained for Greenbelt proper. Of this, 217 acres were 
used for the town, 500 acres were reserved for future expansion, 250 
acres were used for parks, 107 acres were reserved for allotment gar- 
dens, 20 acres were used for a county high school, and the rest re- 
mained in waste and woodland, both available for recreation. Green- 
belt was planned as a dormitory town for Washington, which was 

10 Department of Agriculture, Resettlement Administration, Report of the Ad- 
ministrator of the Resettlement Administration, 1937 (The second annual report 
of the Resettlement Administration; Washington, 1937), p. 17. Joseph L. Dailey 
to John Sansill, Oct. 19, 1935, R.G. 96, National Archives; Farm Security Ad- 
ministration, Report on the Greenbelt Cities, n.d., ibid. 

Greenbelt Towns 311 

experiencing a rapid growth and a severe housing shortage. Unlike 
the English garden cities, Greenbelt was not planned for any industry 
of its own, although it was hoped that several employees of the Re- 
search Center could live at Greenbelt. Finally, unlike the other green- 
belt cities and again contrary to garden city principles, Greenbelt did 
not contain any farms in its greenbelt, primarily because the land was 
not suitable for farming. However, the Research Center was a con- 
tiguous farming area. 11 

The physical design of Greenbelt became famous. The completed 
plan envisioned a future expansion to approximately 3,000 family 
units, although the Resettlement Administration planned to construct 
only 1,000 units. The design combined the ideas of the garden city 
exponents with the Radburn plan. As a garden city it was to be limited 
in size by the greenbelt, and was to be under public ownership. As 
its older sister, Radburn, it was to have extra-large blocks, internal 
parks, the rigid separation of pedestrians and automobiles, and pedes- 
trian underpasses. The town of Greenbelt was constructed on a 
crescent-shaped plateau which formed a half -moon around the central 
community shopping center and recreational area. The dwelling units 
were largely located in five superblocks of from fifteen to twenty 
acres each. As at Radburn the houses or apartments faced two ways, 
toward a central park and pedestrian walkways on one side and to- 
ward the service entrances or cul-de-sacs on the other. Skirting the 
large blocks were the streets, which, because of the design, amounted 
to only six miles. The parks in the center of each block were connected 
to each other by pedestrian underpasses costing about $5,000 each. 
An underpass also connected the housing areas with the community 
center. A man-made lake of twenty-five acres near the community 
center enhanced the beauty of the site. 12 (See Figure 2.) 

Because of limited funds, the Resettlement Administration com- 
pleted only 885 dwelling units at Greenbelt. Of these, only five were 
detached, single-family homes, whereas 574 were in multiple-dwelling 

11 Cedric Larson, "Greenbelt, Maryland: A Federally Planned Community," 
reprinted from the National Municipal Review, XXVII (1938), by the Farm 
Security Administration, pp. 23. 

Stein, Toward New Towns, p. 113; Larson, "Greenbelt, Maryland," p. 4; 
"Greenbelt Towns," Architectural Record, LXXX, 220-221; M. E. Gilford, "In- 
troducing: 'Greenbelt, Maryland,' " Christian Science Monitor Magazine, Aug. 11, 
1937, p. 5. 

312 Tomorrow a New World 

row houses and 306 in larger apartment buildings. Despite the multi- 
ple dwellings the housing density was only seven families per acre. 
The dwellings were partly of brick veneer with pitched roofs and 
partly of cinder blocks with flat roofs. The city contained its own 
sewage system and disposal plant, a water storage tank and mains, 
and a central electrical distribution system. Water and electricity were 
purchased in bulk from Washington and a private company, respec- 
tively. The housing units varied in size from tiny one-bedroom apart- 
ments to seven-room dwellings. They were unfurnished, except for 
the range and refrigerator, but, as in each of the three cities, the Re- 
settlement Administration had given simplified furniture designs to 
private manufacturers and would, if the tenant desired, furnish his 
unit at a very low price. The units were heated by centrally located 
hot- water furnaces. All utilities were planned for a city of 3,000 
families. 13 

The community center was planned as the heart of Greenbelt. It 
contained the community building, which was leased during the day 
to the county for an elementary school, the fire engine, the gas station, 
an inn and restaurant, the movie theater, and a mercantile center, 
which included a food and general merchandise store, a drugstore, a 
barbershop, a beauty shop, and a dry-cleaning and valet shop. The 
community center also had a playground, an outdoor swimming pool, 
and an athletic field. Other playgrounds, play boxes, and open areas 
were interspersed throughout the town, and the lake and greenbelt 
formed perfect natural playgrounds. The shopping center followed 
Ebenezer Howard's idea of a restricted market. Only one shop was 
allowed for each business or service, and all were under community 
control. A consolidated county high school was constructed by Prince 
George County near the town and on the very edge of the greenbelt. 
The University of Maryland was only four miles from the commu- 
nity. 14 

In September, 1935, the Resettlement Administration optioned 5,930 
acres of farm land about eleven miles north of downtown Cincinnati. 

13 Larson, "Greenbelt, Maryland," pp. 4-5; "Greenbelt Towns," Architectural 
Record, LXXX, 220-222; "Farm Security Administration Housing Projects," Archi- 
tectural Forum, LXVIII (1938), 416-417. 

14 Stein, Toward New Towns, pp. 132, 137; "Greenbelt Towns," Architectural 
Record, LXXX, 220-222; "Greenbelt Takes Over: Consumers Now Own Co-op 
Stores Launched with Filene Money," Business Week, Feb. 3, 1940, p. 35. 

Qreenbelt Towns 313 

This was the site for Greenhills, which was, according to original 
plans, to be as large as Greenbelt. The Cincinnati area was picked for 
a greenbelt city because of the density of industry, the proportionately 
large number of people engaged in industry, and the local housing 
shortage. The particular site was selected because it was only thirty 
minutes from 53,800 jobs and because of its beauty, its distance from 
existing subdivisions, its transportation facilities, and its excellent 
farm land. Only about 1,300 acres of the roughest terrain were utilized 
in the central town, leaving over 4,000 acres in farm or woodland. Un- 
like Greenbelt, the site for Greenhills contained about thirty large 
farms and an equal number of subsistence farms. These farms already 
had homes and outbuildings and were only repaired by the Resettle- 
ment Administration. The farms were leased tq tenants under five-year 
leases, with the rent determined by production. Some eroded areas 
were reforested. Soil analyses were made by the Ohio State University, 
and the Resettlement Administration helped the farmers work out 
crop plans. It was hoped that the farms could supply Greenhills with 
farm products, which were to be marketed through a farmers' market 
in the town. In actuality the farmers sold most of their products in 
Cincinnati. 15 

The plot design at Greenhills varied considerably from that at 
Greenbelt, although many of the Radburn features remained. Green- 
hills was scenically placed in a wild area sharply cut by ravines. Un- 
like Greenbelt, the site was crossed by a main highway. The roads and 
topography led to several narrow curving building areas separated 
from each other by the ravines or the roads. Thus, although there were 
several superblocks with cul-de-sacs and central park areas, much of 
the town consisted of single, fingerlike cul-de-sacs or small circular 
drives, both surrounded by the natural scenery. The community cen- 
ter, roughly in the center of the town and on the main highway, was 
not as easily accessible by foot to all the homes as was the one at 
Greenbelt, but, unlike that at Greenbelt, was designed for automobile 
travel. Thus, Greenhills, adapted to different terrain, was not planned 
with all the unique pedestrian facilities of Greenbelt, such as a com- 
plete underpass system. On the other hand, Greenhills was situated in 
a much more beautiful natural setting, with the homes always fronting 

15 Cincinnati Enquirer, Oct. 13, 1936; Washington Star, Nov. 20, 1938; "Green- 
belt Towns," Architectural Record, LXXX, 224-226. 

314 Tomorrow a New World 

both on streets and on central parks or on a back-yard wilderness. 16 
(See Figure 3.) 

As completed, the town of Greenhills contained only 676 of a con- 
templated 1,000 family units. These were divided into 24 detached, 
three- or four-bedroom, single-family dwellings, 152 one- and two- 
bedroom apartments, and 500 two-, three-, or four-bedroom units in 
row or group houses. The housing units were of stucco over terra-cotta 
blocks, with slate roofs and insulation. They were heated by hot-water 
radiators connected with boiler-type oil furnaces. Many of the homes 
had attics, basements, and attached garages. Water was secured from 
Cincinnati, and sewage was disposed of in a regional trunk line. The 
Greenhills community center included the administration building, 
the combined community center, high school, and elementary school 
building, a restricted retail center as at Greenbelt, an arcade planned 
as a farmers' market, and a swimming pool. Connected with it was a 
park and, at a short distance, athletic fields. An area near the town 
was reserved for allotment gardens, and the wooded banks of a creek 
which bisected the town provided a perfect area for hiking. 17 

The third greenbelt city, which contained 3,510 acres just to the 
west of Milwaukee, was radically different in design from the other 
two greenbelt towns. It was placed near Milwaukee because of the 
housing shortage and the large percentage of people employed in in- 
dustry. Planned for only 750 family units, Greendale was less like 
Radburn than its two sisters. Alone among the three cities, it had a 
small, ten-acre area reserved for light industry, although none was 
established by the Resettlement Administration. Approximately 1,830 
acres were in farm land, with 13 full-time dairy farms of from 75 to 
240 acres and 53 small farms or subsistence units. A farm adviser was 
provided by the Farm Security Administration, which remodeled or 
repaired many of the farm buildings. 18 

Greendale was planned as a conventional country village, with a 

19 "Site Plans of 'Greenbelt' Towns," American City, LI (Aug., 1936), 58-59; 
"Greenbelt Towns," Architectural Record, LXXX, 224-226. 

17 "Farm Security Administration Housing Projects," Architectural Forum, 
LXVIII, 418-419, 424; "Greenbelt Towns," Architectural Record, LXXX, 224- 

18 Farm Security Administration, "Greendale: Final Report of Project Costs to 
June 30, 1938," in R.G. 96, National Archives; Sherwood L. Reeder, "A Report 
on the First Two Years of the Greendale Community," A Project Report of the 
Bureau of Agricultural Economics, April 30, 1940, R.G. 83, National Archives. 

Greenbelt Towns 315 

few cul-de-sacs and several normal city blocks. It contained only indi- 
vidual or small-group housing, being the largest housing project of 
this nature in the northern United States. The community and business 
section resembled the business area of an average village. Each home 
faced either a main street or a service entrance; each contained a back 
yard and a garden area. The large village park was separated from 
the homes, and the nearby farms contributed to the rural atmosphere. 
Although in every way more conventional than its sister cities, Green- 
dale was usually adjudged more desirable by most tenants because 
of the predominance of individual houses. Located in a green valley, 
protected from winter storms by wooded hillsides, and close to the 
Milwaukee park system, Greendale was also a very pretty town. 19 
(See Figure 4.) 

Greendale, when completed, contained only 572 dwelling units in 
the city proper. Of these, 274 were two- and three-bedroom, detached, 
family dwellings, 90 were one-, two, and four-bedroom duplexes, 
whereas only 208 were in multiple-family units. All houses were of 
cinder blocks, with clay tile roofs, insulation, maple floors, and indi- 
vidual hot-air furnaces. Unlike those in the other two cities, the tenants 
at Greendale were individually responsible for their utilities. Most of 
the homes had garages and screened porches. The electric and tele- 
phone wires were underground, with enough utilities laid for 5,000 
people. Each family that desired more garden space than was pro- 
vided in the back yards could have an extra allotment near the vil- 
lage. 20 

Greendale's community center included an administration building, 
a combination community and elementary school building, a fire and 
police station, a store, a movie theater, a tavern, a post office, and a 
service station. Its streets were bordered by sidewalks, again in the 
conventional manner, and the community area was fully landscaped. 
Alone among greenbelt cities, Greendale's community center was con- 
structed by contract rather than by relief labor. 21 

19 Clarence S. Stein, "Greendale and the Future," American City, LXIII ( June, 
1948), 106-107; "Site Plans," American City, LI, 56; "Greenbelt Towns," Archi- 
tectural Record, LXXX, 227-230. 

20 Milwaukee Journal, Sept. 17, 1936; "Farm Security Administration Housing," 
Architectural Forum, LXVIII, 420-421; "Greendale: Final Report of Project 
Costs," R.G. 96, National Archives. 

31 "Greendale, Final Report of Project Costs," R.G. 96, National Archives. 

316 Tomorrow a New World 

The first tenant moved into Greenbelt on September 30, 1937. By 
December, 1938, approximately 2,000 of the more than 2,200 units in 
all three cities were occupied. By the time of the first occupancy, the 
Resettlement Administration had been besieged with over 12,000 ap- 
plications for Greenbelt alone, necessitating a careful process of selec- 
tion. The express purpose of the greenbelt towns, to serve low-income 
workers, led to a wage ceiling of $2,200 for each family, and the rent 
scales necessitated a minimum income of about $1,200. Preference 
was given to young married families with children, who were living 
in poor housing but who could, nevertheless, afford the rent to be 
charged at the greenbelt cities. The rent scale at Greenbelt and Green- 
hills, where utilities were included, ranged from about $18.00 to $42.00, 
depending on the size of the unit. At Greendale, where the individual 
was responsible for utilities, the rent varied from $19.00 to $32.50. The 
first 885 families at Greenbelt were composed primarily of wage earn- 
ers and government workers. Most had high school educations; the 
religious composition followed the national average. At Milwaukee 
and Cincinnati the tenants were usually industrial workers. In all cases 
they were predominantly young people, with the adults at Greenbelt 
averaging only thirty-one years of age. In order to maintain high 
standards, the Resettlement Administration enforced strict rules in 
the greenbelt cities. At Greenbelt no dogs were permitted, and no 
clothes were allowed to remain on the lines after four in the afternoon. 
Contrary to many of the rural communities, a strict rent discipline was 
maintained, with payments due in advance and eviction an ever- 
present reality. For the first four years the amount of accumulated 
delinquency totaled only 0.3 per cent. 22 

The original occupants at the three greenbelt cities were an enthusi- 
astic group, with the highest of morale. This fact was reflected in the 
amazing number of community activities. One visitor to Greenbelt 
concluded that the citizens were "overstimulated" socially. There were 
so many activities, so many things planned, that the citizens' associa- 
tion provided for a "stay-at-home week" for the last week of the year. 

22 Will W. Alexander, "A Review of the Farm Security Administration's Housing 
Activities," Housing Yearbook, 1939 (Chicago: National Association of Housing 
Officials, 1939), p. 139; Larson, "Greenbelt, Maryland," p. 6; Stein, Toward 
New Towns, p. 110; Philip S. Brown, "What Has Happened at Greenbelt?" New 
Republic, CV (1941), 184; a report on the greenbelt communities, n.d., R.G. 96, 
National Archives. 

Greenbelt Towns 317 

During this week there was to be a moratorium on all club and civic 
activities. At Greenbelt there was the Greenbelt Citizens' Association 
(the most important civic organization), a Junior Citizens' Associa- 
tion, a hobby club, boy scouts, girl scouts, cub scouts, a garden club, 
a bridge club, an American Legion chapter, a dance band, an athletic 
organization, a preschool mothers' club, a school-age mothers' club, a 
radio club, a glider club, a widows' club, a swimming club, a camera 
club, a better buyer's club, the Greenbelt Players, a choral group, and 
a journalistic club. 23 Greendale had its citizens' group, a marionette 
class, a drama club, a tap-dancing class, an organized sports league, 
scout activities, and a newspaper. Perhaps fortunately for the over- 
worked citizens, this social activity soon lessened, and the greenbelt 
cities settled down to a very normal small-town existence, with much 
apathy, many cliques, and a continually large turnover in tenants. 24 
Although the greenbelt cities were satellites, economically depend- 
ent upon their parent cities, they did contain their own retail shopping 
centers. These permitted the usual stress upon co-operation. Edward 
Filene, a merchant of Boston, gave $1,000,000 to further the co- 
operative movement as the greenbelt cities were being constructed. 
The Consumer Distribution Corporation, founded with this Filene 
grant, leased the commercial centers in the three greenbelt cities and 
had the stores ready for operation when the residents arrived. The 
externally financed co-operative service was to operate the stores only 
until the citizens could establish their own consumers' co-operative. 
Co-operation became a rage at Greenbelt, with the children operating 
a co-operative commissary in the school. But not until 1940 was a 
local co-operative organized and ready to take over the retail services, 
which were returning a regular profit. The consumers' co-operative, 
as organized, included 456 of the 885 families. At Greenhills and 
Greendale similar consumer groups took over the retail stores at an 
even earlier date. The co-operatives paid limited dividends to each 
stockholder, with one share of stock costing $10.00 at Greenhills and 
$15.00 at Greendale. Other savings, if any, were passed on to the con- 
sumers. Also organized co-operatively were the credit unions and the 

23 Hugh A. Bone, "Greenbelt Faces 1939," American City, LIV (Feb., 1939), 
59-61; Larson, "Greenbelt, Maryland," p. 7; O. Kline Fulmer, Greenbelt (Wash- 
ington: American Council on Public Affairs, n.d.), pp. 26-36; George A. Warner, 
Greenbelt: The Cooperative Community (New York, 1954), pp. 84-85. 

24 Brown, "What Has Happened at Greenbelt?" p. 184. 

318 Tomorrow a New World 

group medical services. A typical medical plan, the one at Greendale, 
cost one dollar a month per person, or three dollars for a family. 25 

The educational program in the greenbelt cities was for adults as 
well as for children. The early enthusiasm resulted in a flurry of adult 
classes. Under the direction of an educational committee of the Green- 
belt Citizens' Association, adults took courses in art, home economics, 
political science, and accounting, many under instructors from the 
nearby University of Maryland. In all three cities the elementary 
schools were held in the community buildings. At Greenbelt the school 
was used as an experiment in progressive education, with the unit 
plan being used. This did not receive support from all the parents, 
since some of them desired a more traditional system for their chil- 
dren. For many years the religious services were also held in the 
community buildings. 26 

According to the earliest plans, the greenbelt cities were to be com- 
plete, incorporated towns with their own municipal governments. In 
April, 1937, months before completion, Greenbelt received a charter 
from the Maryland legislature, which officially established it as the 
first Maryland town with a city-manager type of government. Green- 
hills and Greendale were similarly incorporated in 1938, each with 
the city-manager system. In each town the city manager was ap- 
pointed by a democratically elected city council. Since the Farm 
Security Administration had its own community manager in each 
town, the town councils, for many years, also appointed him town 
manager. The existence of three or four governmental units (state, 
county, city, and federal) inevitably led to problems. The Farm Se- 
curity Administration made payments in lieu of taxes not only to the 
county and state, but also to the city government for specific services. 
Since the city government could not tax the landowner the federal 
government most of the money for public utilities, street repairs, 
maintenance, and police and fire protection had to be provided by the 

25 Warner, Greenbelt: The Cooperative Community, pp. 72-74, 133-141; Ralph 
Adams Cram, "What Is a Free Man?" Catholic Rural Life Objectives, III (1937), 
38; Memorandum for Mordecai Ezekiel, Sept. 9, 1937, R.G. 16, National Archives; 
"Greenbelt Goes Completely Cooperative," Readers Digest, XXX (Oct., 1938), 
36; "Greenbelt Takes Over," p. 35; Fulmer, Greenbelt, pp. 27-31; Washington 
Star, Nov. 20, 1938; Reeder, "A Report on ... Greendale," R.G. 83, National 

26 Bone, "Greenbelt Faces 1939," pp. 60-61; Stein, Toward New Towns, p. 135. 

Greenbelt Towns 319 

federal government. Thus the city council and town manager could 
only make suggestions as to needed expenditures, receiving the needed 
funds at the discretion of the Farm Security Administration. This led 
to some indications of irresponsibility on the part of the local govern- 
ments. 27 Fortunately, many of the problems in local administration 
and government had been anticipated by John O. Walker, long-time 
mayor of Radburn, who had been brought to the Management Divi- 
sion of the Resettlement Administration on the suggestion of M. L. 
Wilson, and by Clarence Stein, who made a study of anticipated oper- 
ation and maintenance costs in the three greenbelt cities. 

The greenbelt communities were constantly in the public eye from 
the beginning of construction until long after full occupancy. Since 
they were close to large urban areas, over 1,200,000 people visited 
them between July 1, 1936, and June 30, 1937. Every innovation, every 
petty detail was scrutinized. One critic stated that, whether or not a 
person felt the government had any business building greenbelt cities, 
"you can't help admit they're interesting." 28 But, interesting or no, 
local opinion prevented Greenbrook's completion, and a suit against 
Greendale was attempted unsuccessfully by the Milwaukee building 
and loan associations. In Cincinnati the Real Estate Board, the build- 
ing and loan associations, and the Chamber of Commerce all opposed 
Greenhills. Real estate owners often feared lowered land values, and 
local governments, such as Bound Brook, New Jersey, feared a loss in 
tax revenue. The greenbelt cities like all of Tugwell's ventures were 
treated unfairly in a majority of newspapers, with the New York 
American describing Greendale as "the first Communist town in 
America." 29 

As in many of the subsistence homesteads, much of the greenbelt 
criticism was directed at minor details. Many of the new concepts in 
planning, partly because of their newness, were unappreciated or dis- 
liked. The row houses and flat roofs at Greenbelt were described as 
ugly. The community ownership was described as either socialism or 
communism. Tenants often disliked the stiff discipline and desired to 

27 Stein, Toward New Towns, pp. 148, 155. 

28 Resettlement Administration, Report of the Administrator of the Resettlement 
Administration, 1937, p. 17; New Brunswick Daily Home News, May 11, 1936. 

29 New York American, Oct. 29, 1936; Warren Bishop, "A Yardstick for Hous- 
ing," Nations Business, XXIV (April, 1936), 69; Milwaukee Journal, Sept. 17, 

320 Tomorrow a New World 

own their own homes as soon as possible. Many viewed the rigid ceil- 
ing on income as an attempt to stifle initiative by rewarding poverty. 
The relative isolation of Greenbelt led to constant transportation diffi- 
culties. For one year the Farm Security Administration subsidized the 
Washington city transportation system in order to have regular buses. 
After this was declared illegal by the Attorney General, the people at 
Greenbelt had to form car pools or make several bus changes. Some 
citizens disliked the monopoly over consumer outlets enjoyed by the 
local co-operatives. Yet most inhabitants were proud of their homes 
and would suggest no basic changes. As for the children, they were 
in a heaven as compared with most low-cost city housing areas. 

The most valid criticism of the greenbelt cities was directed at their 
costs. Tugwell, when first beginning the greenbelt towns, had thor- 
oughly condemned private enterprise for not entering the field of low- 
cost, prefabricated housing. Yet the average unit cost at Greenbelt 
was $15,395, at Greenhills $16,093, and at Greendale $16,623. This was 
not low-cost housing. At the price rented it was highly subsidized 
housing. The net income from rent at Greenbelt in 1941 was only 
$30,744; this meant that, not regarding interest, it would take over 
300 years for Greenbelt to pay for itself. In defense of the high costs 
the Farm Security Administration had some very logical arguments. 
The use of unskilled relief labor, it was argued, added over a third 
of the cost. Beyond this, the unused greenbelt could not be charged 
to the homes, since it had certainly retained its original value. More- 
over, the public and community facilities, usually furnished by local 
governments, had been added to the costs. Finally, the greenbelt cities 
had been constructed to care for over three times the original popula- 
tion, meaning that any future expansion would cost only a fraction as 
much per unit, an argument proved at Greenbelt by the addition of 
wartime housing. But, on the other hand, the greenbelt towns indi- 
cated that no private corporation could build complete towns, with 
all their facilities and an expensive greenbelt, and then be able to 
rent them to low-income families. 30 

Nevertheless, the greenbelt cities had many enthusiastic admirers. 
When visiting Greenbelt in December, 1936, President Roosevelt pro- 

30 George Morris, "$16,000 Home for $2,000 Incomes: Typical Government Ex- 
periments Is Greenbelt," Nations Business, XXVI (Jan., 1938), 21-22; Tugwell, 
"Meaning of the Greenbelt Towns," p. 42. 

Greenbelt Towns 321 

claimed: "This is a real achievement and I wish everyone in the coun- 
try could see it." 31 In England, Sir Raymond Unwin, the coplanner 
of Letchworth, enthusiastically lectured on the greenbelt cities to 
those familiar with garden cities. The greenbelt towns influenced 
housing and town planning around the world, being second only to 
the Tennessee Valley Authority in interest to foreign guests. The De- 
partment of State received requests for information on the towns from 
several foreign governments. 32 To town planners the towns had their 
greatest significance. Said Henry Churchill, one of the architects at 
Greenbelt, of the three towns: "The prevailing philosophy of self- 
liquidation, of constipated conservatism, must not be allowed to inter- 
fere with what is, by any philosophy, next to the T.V.A., the most sig- 
nificant of the New Deal's attempt to be a New Deal/' 33 Another 
housing and planning expert, Walter H. Blucher, though critical of 
some aspects of greenbelt planning, conceded: "Greenbelt, Greenhills, 
and Greendale provide the first American demonstration of how ade- 
quate communities can be built." 34 A colleague, Tracy B. Augur, be- 
lieved that the greenbelt cities marked "the birth of an urban nation," 
with a new dependency on community and group action. He con- 

They mark the beginning of a new urban era in the United States, an era 
in which the emphasis will no longer be on more and bigger cities, but on 
better ones. They mark the beginning of an era in which the establishment 
and expansion of cities will become recognized as the people's business, to 
insure, through the process of democratic government, an urban environ- 
ment worthy of the American ideal of life. 35 

Greenbelt was the only one of the three towns to be enlarged while 
under government ownership, though they all had facilities for at 
least doubling their population. Even as the Resettlement Administra- 

31 Mount Rainier, Maryland, Prince Georgian, Dec. 25, 1936. 

33 Henry Wallace to Sir Raymond Unwin, May 28, 1937, R.G. 16, National 
Archives; a series of letters from the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Agricul- 
ture, 1938, R.G. 96, National Archives. 

33 Henry Churchill, "America's Town Planning Begins," New Republic, LXXXVII 
(1936), 97. 

34 Tracy B. Augur and Walter H. Blucher, "The Significance of the Greenbelt 
Towns," Housing Yearbook, 1938 (Chicago: National Association of Housing Of- 
ficials, 1938), p. 224. 

35 Ibid., pp. 218, 221. 

322 Tomorrow a 'New World 

tion and the Farm Security Administration completed the construc- 
tion of Greenbelt, they leased some acreage to a private corporation 
which completed ten inexpensive prefabricated houses under a 
limited-dividend arrangement. These houses shared the community 
facilities and utilities. In July, 1940, the Farm Security Administration 
announced that private housing could be erected at the greenbelt sites 
by any company that would complete as many as 200 homes, that 
would accept a ninety-nine-year lease on the land, and that would 
permit the Farm Security Administration to pass upon house plans. 
No company accepted these terms, although a co-operative group was 
interested at Greenbelt. Just before the entrance of the United States 
into World War II, the Federal Works Agency, under the supervision 
of the Farm Security Administration, added 1,000 defense units at 
Greenbelt under the provisions of the Lanham Housing Act. These 
homes were constructed on 217 acres of reserve land, utilized existing 
community facilities, and were in harmony with, even if somewhat 
inferior to, the older units. In proof of the contention that all later 
additions would profit from the original expenditures for community 
facilities, these homes cost less than $3,950 each. 36 This defense hous- 
ing brought in a new type of tenant, for the defense workers could 
not be carefully selected, were older on the average, and had more 
children. Older residents at Greenbelt, perhaps naturally, believed 
that the defense housing ruined their city. Both the defense needs 
and the wartime inflation made meaningless the original income limi- 
tations on Greenbelt residents. 

With the virtual completion of the greenbelt cities in June, 1938, the 
Suburban Resettlement Division was abolished in the Farm Security 
Administration. In 1942 the three greenbelt cities were transferred to 
the Federal Public Housing Authority, since they were strictly non- 
agricultural housing developments. Until 1947 they were retained by 
the Federal Public Housing Authority without any attempts at liquida- 
tion, since they represented renting property and, with some excep- 
tions, could not be sold separately to individuals. In 1947 Congress 

36 Will W. Alexander, "Housing Activities of the Farm Security Administration," 
Housing Yearbook, 1938, p. 38; U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor 
Statistics, "Private Housing in Greenbelt Towns," Monthly Labor Review, LI 
(1940), 643; C. Benham Baldwin, "Farm Security Administration's Sixth Year 
in Rural Housing," Housing Yearbook, 1941 (Chicago, National Association of 
Housing Officials, 1941), p. 251. 

Greenbelt Towns 323 

authorized the Public Housing Administration, which had replaced 
the Federal Public Housing Authority, to spend $39,500 for land sur- 
veys and other steps looking toward the sale of the greenbelt cities. 
Another $40,000 was authorized in 1948. These grants were accom- 
panied by an authorization for the Public Housing Administration to 
insure mortgages on the projects, with a maximum interest of 4 per 
cent and a maturity date of not over twenty-five years. With the com- 
pletion of the appraisals, fourteen acres at Greenbelt were sold to 
five churches in 1948. The Public Housing Administration found that 
there were "numerous unusual problems" involved in disposing of 
whole cities, particularly since they had authority only for selling to 
the highest bidder. In addition, the tenants believed that they should 
have a special opportunity collectively to purchase their homes. Be- 
yond this there was the desire among garden city advocates to retain 
community ownership of the town and the encircling greenbelt in 
order to preserve the planning objectives of the Resettlement Admin- 
istration. 37 

In 1949 Representative Mike Monroney of Oklahoma introduced 
into the House of Representatives a bill which was intended to permit 
the Public Housing Administration to sell the greenbelt cities by 
negotiated sale, at an appraised value, to nonprofit co-operatives, 
corporations, or other organizations, including veterans' groups. In 
the House this bill, which was described as a "fine way for the Govern- 
ment to get out of the real-estate business," was amended to give first 
choice only to organized veterans' groups, provided the present tenants 
were accepted on the same terms as the veterans. The conditions in 
the bill required a down payment of 10 per cent and the rest at 4 per 
cent interest over twenty-five years. The bill passed the House by 
voice vote. In the Senate, Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois, who wished 
to preserve the publicly owned greenbelt areas around the three cities, 
added an amendment to the House bill which permitted the Public 
Housing Administration to transfer public facilities to appropriate 
nonfederal governmental agencies. It passed the Senate as amended 
and became Public Law 65. 38 

37 Warren Farmer to M. Kinzer, June 16, 1938, R.G. 96, National Archives; U.S. 
Housing and Home Finance Agency, Second Annual Report for Calendar Year 
1948 (Washington, 1949), pt. rv, p. 321, and Third Annual Report for Calendar 
Year 1949 (Washington, 1950), pt. rv, pp. 346-347. 

^C.R., 81st Cong., 1st Sess., 1949, pp. 932, 4011, 4471, 4493, 5291, 5833-5834. 

324 Tomorrow a New World 

With these new instructions from Congress, the urban section of 
Greenhills was sold on December 6, 1949, to a Greenhills Home 
Owners Corporation, a nonprofit co-operative group composed of 
veterans and tenants. The sale price was $3,511,300, including not only 
the 680 dwellings but also 600 acres of vacant land. Earlier the electric 
system had been sold for $98,055, and 1,125 acres of land had been 
sold to the Department of the Army for $213,665. In 1950 all sales 
negotiations were halted because of the Korean War. When negotia- 
tions resumed in 1952 at Greenhills, 457 acres were sold to the Cincin- 
nati Park Service for $71,150, and the rest of the greenbelt, 3,378 acres, 
was sold to the Cincinnati Development Corporation for $1,200,000. 
The total sale price for Greenhills was $5,094,170; it cost $11,860,628. 39 

No organized veterans' group qualified for the purchase of Green- 
dale, so it was subdivided (more easily done because of the large 
number of individual houses) and offered for sale to the tenants in 
1951, with offers being received on 97 per cent of the homes. The 
village was sold to the tenants for $4,666,825, and the greenbelt was 
purchased by the Milwaukee Community Development Corporation 
for $825,000, or a total price of $5,491,825. Greendale cost $10,638,- 
465. 40 

Negotiations for the sale of Greenbelt to a veterans' group began in 
1950. On December 30, 1952, this group purchased 1,580 dwellings 
(including the defense housing) for $6,285,450 and 708 acres suitable 
for residences for $670,219. The remaining 307 units (the apartment 
buildings) were sold by competitive bids in 1953 for $914,342 to six 
different purchasers. In addition to these major sales, the fourteen 
acres for churches sold for $14,800, the electric system for $67,600, 
and 1,362 acres of the greenbelt was transferred to the Department of 
the Interior without reimbursement. Three parcels of land totaling 818 
acres were sold for $576,912, and, in 1954, the shopping center was 
sold for $444,444 in competitive bidding. 41 Greenbelt thus sold for 

39 Letter to author from Casey Ireland, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, 
Public Housing Administration, Nov. 28, 1956; U.S. Housing and Home Finance 
Agency, Third Annual Report for Calendar Year 1949, pt. iv, pp. 346-347, and 
Sixth Annual Report for Calendar Year 1952 (Washington, 1953), pt. rv, pp. 430- 

40 Letter to author from Casey Ireland, Nov. 28, 1956. 

4 *Ibid.; U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency, Seventh Annual Report for 
Calendar Year 1953 (Washington, 1954), pt. rv, pp. 399-400. 

Greenbelt Towns 325 

$8,973,767. All the greenbelt cities liquidated at $19,559,762, which, 
not even counting the cost of the defense housing at Greenbelt, was 
only approximately 53 per cent of the total cost of $36,200,910. 

With the final liquidation of the greenbelt cities in 1954, the direct 
role of the federal government in community building was ended. Yet 
the communities still survived, for, in a larger sense, the government 
had only set in motion a self -perpetuating process. The community 
building would continue far into an unpredictable future, for the 
government merely withdrew its paternal direction from its very 
youthful offspring, leaving each fledgling community to grow toward 
adulthood without external supervision. Very appropriate are the 
words of Vachel Lindsay in his "The Building of Our City*': 

Record it for the grandson of your son 
A city is not builded in a day: 
Our little town cannot complete her soul 
Till countless generations pass away. 

In Retrospect 

THE many attempted reforms of the New Deal period were not 
all part of one consistent program. The term "New Deal/' like the 
label "Progressive Era/' defies analysis in terms of one, dominant 
philosophy. In both periods there were many reformers and many re- 
form programs, many philosophers and many diverse philosophies of 
reform. No one doctrinaire, thoroughgoing pattern for reform has ever 
been implemented in the United States, a country which never has 
had a strong socialist-labor, or any other one-class, party. Yet the term 
"New Deal" is not meaningless. It symbolizes the most overwhelming 
sentiment for reform (or for a new deal) in American history. The 
three years of depression from 1930 to 1933 did more to arouse a wide- 
spread demand for effective reform than the many years of less intense 
distress and of public education that preceded the Progressive Move- 
ment. But the depression, although leading to a demand for action 
and creating an atmosphere favorable to even drastic reforms, did not 
in itself reveal any one, widely accepted pattern for this reform. 

Limited by certain assumptions and attitudes and surprisingly 
traditional and conservative ones they were Franklin D. Roosevelt 
still was open minded and impressible almost to a fault. By 1932 
he would lend a sympathetic ear to almost any well-sounding pro- 
gram for relief, recovery, or reform. As a result, Washington, in 
1933, became a haven for literally thousands of zealous men with 


In Retrospect 327 

widely varied ideas for saving America, for conserving the best of 
the past, for creating a new America, for thwarting radicalism, and for 
implementing radicalism. Sooner or later many long-overdue and much- 
advocated reforms were achieved, such as more favorable legislation 
for labor, a social security program, and more controls over bank- 
ing and investment. Roosevelt was not immune to experimenting with 
appealing, all too simple panaceas, such as government-induced in- 
flation through currency manipulation, and was not too dogmatic to 
be converted to a "sound money" policy. Closely related to the tre- 
mendous relief program were the many public works programs and 
new ventures into such fields as public housing. Action, on many differ- 
ent fronts, was certainly the keynote of the New Deal. 

Compared to many other New Deal experiments, the community 
program was relatively small in terms of final accomplishments. This 
fact should not obscure the early enthusiasm, from Roosevelt on 
down the line, that greeted the early community program. The back- 
to-the-land movement, which eventuated in the first subsistence home- 
steads legislation, was a very romantic and appealing panacea in 
1933. Its appeal, basically conservative or even reactionary, won the 
support of numerous congressmen who were opposed to many of the 
other New Deal experiments. The community idea itself, whether 
connected with subsistence homesteads or resettlement, was flexible 
enough to appeal, and appeal strongly, to people with very diverse 
political creeds, from the most reactionary to the most radical, from 
Ralph Borsodi to Rexford G. Tugwell. In the abstract, most people 
favored planned communities or towns, decentralization of industry, 
subsistence gardens, handicrafts, and even co-operation. The com- 
munity program was not to flounder and die because of any deep- 
seated repudiation of the community idea, which still has both its 
romantic and rational appeal to most Americans. The program suc- 
cumbed because of the controversial ideas of some of its directors, the 
unforseen practical difficulties encountered in implementing the com- 
munity idea, the many problems that inevitably resulted from the 
unco-ordinated and hasty accretion of activity on the part of a rather 
inflexible federal government, an organized opposition to the New 
Deal itself, and a declining sentiment for reform after 1936. 

With the enactment of the subsistence homesteads legislation, the 
community idea had to be implemented in accordance with the phi- 

328 Tomorrow a New World 

losophy of one or only a few policy makers. Many diverse philosophies 
can contribute to the legislative enactment of an abstract idea; many 
diverse or even contradictory philosophies cannot be reflected at 
the same time in the concrete implementation of an idea, at least not 
without complete confusion and near inaction. In a larger sense this 
was a dilemma faced not only by the community program but by many 
other agencies and by the New Deal as a whole. The New Deal had 
an overwhelming mandate for action, a mandate coming from all 
classes and all interests. But action leads to concrete programs, and 
in the presence of conflicting interest groups and varying political 
philosophies, no major, significant program can long win overwhelm- 
ing support. The early honeymoon period of the New Deal was doomed 
to a quick end in spite of the severity of the economic depression. 
Back at the level of the community program, any policies set up in 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads were sure to displease some 
of the sponsors of the legislation. The source of this opposition was 
to be determined by the controlling ideas of the men who directed 
the community-building agencies. The severity of the opposition was 
to be determined by the degree that these directors expressed the most 
popular views of the American people. 

The most critical decision affecting the New Deal communities was 
Roosevelt's choice of Tugwell to head the newly created Resettle- 
ment Administration in 1935. The communities then became only one 
element in an ambitious program to reshape the face of rural and 
suburban America. They also were soon to share the notoriety of the 
controversial Tugwell. As a director of the community program, Tug- 
well's collectivist ideas did not express the majority sentiment in the 
United States, particularly since that majority sentiment was slowly 
shifting toward the right. To say that Tugwell was unpopular is not 
to pronounce judgment. More than almost any other person in the 
New Deal, Tugwell advocated a logical, consistent, and thorough- 
going program of reform that touched on every aspect of the economy. 
As few other men, he saw through the superficial gloss of the many 
panaceas of the New Deal period. He lacked neither personal magnet- 
ism nor an incisively logical, and not always academic, appeal to 
American liberals. His famed political ineptitude, if such existed, 
often indicated only tenacious honesty and high personal integrity. 
As a director of a practical program he did compromise, and he was 

In Retrospect 329 

a better, more conservative administrator than his opponents would 
ever concede. Tugwell soon realized that all his sweeping reforms 
could not be achieved during the New Deal, but fatalistically, pes- 
simistically, Tugwell had to act his part anyway, striving for the un- 
achievable. And his ideas of a collective society, to be achieved 
slowly and not without hard work and costly sacrifices, were far too 
radical for most Americans. He and his successors, who shared his 
philosophical orientation, set the community program on a pathway 
that could lead only to disaster. At a time when public opinion was 
becoming more conservative, the community program was becoming 
more daringly experimental, and departing farther from traditional 
institutions, than ever before. 

The community idea, so appealing in the abstract, was much more 
difficult to achieve in actuality than almost anyone believed possible 
in 1933. The raw material for the completed communities was both 
physical and human, and the latter proved very unpredictable and 
sometimes intractable. All too often the settlers were not anxious to 
participate in experimental reforms leading to a new America which 
they could not understand or appreciate. They simply wanted eco- 
nomic security. Despite some few precedents, the community plan- 
ners of the New Deal were largely exploring new territory. The first 
communities were frankly experimental. The planners soon faced hun- 
dreds of unexpected problems. The methods for detailed social plan- 
ning were unknown or else not available in a free society. In most 
cases the more extensive the reforms attempted within a community, 
the more often that community was a failure. The time and expense 
required in developing successful communities proved to be much 
above earlier expectations. In a period when quick results were de- 
manded, the community idea soon appeared to be very impractical. 

By Roosevelt's second term, an anti-New Deal coalition had solid- 
ified in Congress. Conservative Democrats joined with Republicans to 
police relief expenditures and to oppose any new, large-scale reforms. 
By 1938 the New Deal was completed. Roosevelt himself was be- 
coming preoccupied with foreign developments and, seeking wide 
support, was accepting more conservative advisers. During World War 
II conservative forces dominated Congress, whittling away at such 
vulnerable New Deal programs as the Farm Security Administration. 
Just when the conservative opposition solidified in 1937 and 1938, 

330 Tomorrow a New World 

the New Deal communities were at a critical period of development. 
Most were yet uncompleted or had just been completed. The difficult 
task of community management was just under way. The actual con- 
struction cost of individual communities was just being appraised by 
critical congressmen. The most radical experiments in co-operative 
farming and in long-term leases were introduced either in 1937 or 
even later. For the conservative opponents of the New Deal, the 
unsuccessful communities offered perfect ammunition. They were to 
be exploited for propaganda purposes until after the congressional 
investigation of the Farm Security Administration in 1943. If Tug- 
well had launched his Resettlement Administration program in 1933, 
and could have completed it by 1936, he probably would have achieved 
many of his goals without serious congressional opposition. This was 
not possible after 1936 in a period when the whole New Deal was more 
and more on the defensive. 

The tremendous, frenzied governmental activity of the early New 
Deal can be understood only in relation to the depression. The de- 
pression resulted in both fear and anger among large groups of people. 
For a brief time the old individualistic, capitalistic society was widely 
condemned. The caution, complacency, and natural conservation of 
most Americans were shattered, and millions looked to the federal 
government for a new, more secure society. But this early move- 
ment for reform rapidly lost momentum, although it never disappeared 
completely. Whether because of returning prosperity or because of a 
regained sense of security, there was not nearly so much enthusiasm 
for a new society in 1937 as there had been in 1933. By the time of 
the Farm Security Administration investigation in 1943, any challenge 
to the old society was branded as treason, or at least heresy. The 
renewed popularity of the older, more established institutions doomed 
the experiments being carried on within many of the New Deal com- 
munities. Many changes had been wrought by the New Deal, and 
many were to remain. But the day for launching extensive new re- 
forms was in the past. The New Deal produced no more Tennessee 
Valley Authorities, despite Roosevelt's wishes. Congress had decided 
that there should be no more new communities and no expansion of 
the ones already developed. Furthermore, the existing communities 
were to be forced back into the traditional patterns of complete in- 

In Retrospect 331 

dividual ownership, private enterprise, and local control. This all 
happened after 1943. 

Despite the fact that the New Deal communities were repudiated 
as part of government policy and that government controls over the 
communities were removed before most of the social experiments 
had been completed, the program resulted in approximately 100 com- 
pleted communities and housing for approximately 10,000 families, 
about one-half of which were rural. The construction and manage- 
ment of the communities provided direct or indirect employment for 
countless thousands of workers. For each dollar expended, the com- 
munities represented more tangible, enduring achievements than most 
other relief expenditures. 

In retrospect, the program appears to have been most valuable in 
revealing the problems of detailed social planning and of effecting a 
rapid transition from an individualistic to a more collectivised society. 
For the historian, the community program was most valuable in 
providing new insight about American reform efforts and in revealing 
or suggesting the many ideas, ideals, and values that were competing 
for acceptance, or were seemingly at stake, in the New Deal period. 
From a more tangible viewpoint, the green belt cities have been 
widely influential in the city planning movement, and the excellent 
physical designs and the present-day prosperity of most of the New 
Deal communities seem to have redeemed some of the early mistakes. 
It is unfortunate that the long political controversy that swirled around 
the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration 
has completely colored the memory of the New Deal communities, 
obscuring most of their virtues and magnifying all their shortcomings. 


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Bibliographical Note 

THE National Archives are the one indispensable source of information 
about the New Deal communities. Here are records of high-level policy de- 
cisions and of the most minute details concerning local projects. Record 
Group 96, Records of the Farmers' Home Administration, contains literally 
hundreds of cubic feet of official records on the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Resettle- 
ment Administration, and the Farm Security Administration. No adequate 
history of the communities could be written without these all-important 
records. Since the Resettlement Administration (soon to become the Farm 
Security Administration) was absorbed by the Department of Agriculture 
in 1937 and since Rexford G. Tugwell was Assistant Secretary of Agricul- 
ture, Record Group 16, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, 
contains much valuable correspondence relating to the community program. 
Record Group 48, Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, 
contains a few cubic feet of very valuable records on the early subsistence 
homesteads program. A few scattered records of the Federal Emergency 
Relief Administration communities are contained in Record Group 69, Rec- 
ords of the Work Projects Administration and Its Predecessors; and Record 
Group 83, Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, contains the 
records of several valuable studies conducted on various aspects of the com- 
munity program. 

Second in importance only to the National Archives are the many public 
documents, reports, and bulletins relating either directly or indirectly to the 
New Deal communities or to their background. Since the fate of the com- 
munities was ultimately in the hands of Congress, the Congressional Record 
provides a running account of the developing congressional displeasure 


Bibliographical Note 339 

with the communities. Even more valuable are the many congressional com- 
mittee hearings, reports, and documents, beginning with those relating to 
soldier settlement and reclamation (House and Senate Committees on Irri- 
gation and Reclamation, Labor, Public Lands, and Agriculture) and cul- 
minating with the annual hearings and reports of the House and Senate 
Agricultural Subcommittees of the Committees on Appropriations from 
1936 through 1949. Two congressional documents deserve special mention. 
The first is the result of the monumental investigation of the Farm Security 
Administration in 1943-1944: Select Committee of the House Committee 
on Agriculture, Hearings on the Farm Security Administration, 78th Cong., 
1st Sess., 1943-1944. These hearings provide a controversial but most valu- 
able source of information on the financial records of the individual com- 
munities. The second document is Senate Document no. 213, Resettlement 
Administration Program, 74th Cong., 2d Sess., 1936, which represents a 
statistical analysis of the resettlement program as compiled for Congress by 
the Resettlement Administration. A glorified, dressed-up view of the com- 
munities is contained in the many reports, bulletins, and circulars issued by 
the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, the Resettlement Administration, 
and the Farm Security Administration from 1934 through 1943. The final 
disposition of the communities is recorded in the annual reports of the 
United States National Housing Agency (1945-1947) and its successor, the 
United States Housing and Home Finance Agency (1947-1953). 

The New Deal communities were both centers of controversy and objects 
of curiosity from their very beginning. Almost the same thing can be said 
of the back-to-the-land movement, the garden city crusade, and Elwood 
Mead's work in rural resettlement. In each of these cases there was a wealth 
of contemporary publicity in magazines and newspapers. A list of such 
articles would probably fill a book. Over 200 are cited in the footnotes of 
this study; many more were consulted. The articles varied in size and in 
merit. Some were pure propaganda, and only a few were balanced. One 
news release by the Resettlement Administration might result in twenty 
different articles, all recounting the same basic information with varying 
interpretations. In retrospect, it is surprising that so many words were writ- 
ten and so little revealed. The popular articles tended to concentrate almost 
entirely on the curious and the ridiculous, on the errors, or on human inter- 
est. The following four bibliographies provide a nearly complete list of 
articles related to the early community program and its background: Louise 
O. Bercaw and Annie M. Hannay, Bibliography on Land Utilization, 1918 
1936 (United States Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication 
no. 284; Washington, 1938); Louise O. Bercaw, Annie M. Hannay, and 
Esther M. Colvin, Bibliography on Land Settlement, with Particular Refer- 
ence to Small Holdings and Subsistence Homesteads (United States De- 

340 Bibliographical Note 

partment of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication no. 172; Washington, 
1934); Helen E. Heunefrund, Part-Time Farming in the United States 
(United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Agricultural Econom- 
ics, Agricultural Economics Bibliography no. 77; Washington, 1939); Kath- 
erine McNamara, Bibliography of Planning, 1928-35 (Cambridge, Mass., 

There are no published studies of the whole New Deal community pro- 
gram. The most valuable book to appear so far was the result of a sociologi- 
cal research project on the part of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and 
was published as: Russell Lord and Paul H. Johnstone, eds., A Place on 
Earth: A Critical Appraisal of Subsistence Homesteads (Washington, 1942). 
It includes an introductory background by the editors and field reports on 
several individual subsistence homesteads communities. Another valuable 
study was limited to five communities, Paul W. Wager, One Foot on the 
Soil: A Study of Subsistence Homesteads in Alabama (University of Ala- 
bama, 1945). An intimate view of the early years at Greenbelt is contained 
in George A. Warner, Greenbelt: The Cooperative Community (New York, 
1954). One other major work was completed very early and also was limited 
in scope, Raymond P. Duggan, A Federal Resettlement Project Granger 
Homesteads (School of Social Work, Monograph no. 1, Catholic University 
of America; Washington, 1937). 

The community program generally has not received detailed attention in 
the growing number of works related to the New Deal. A significant excep- 
tion is Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Roosevelt, vol. II: The Com- 
ing of the New Deal (Boston, 1958), which includes a detailed account of 
the work of the Resettlement Administration. Russell Lord, in The Wallaces 
of Iowa (Boston, 1947), provides biographical information on Rexford G. 
Tugwell and Milburn L. Wilson and shows the relationship of the com- 
munity program to the over-all agricultural program. Unfortunately some 
of the minor factual details in this well-written but rambling study are in- 
accurate. The struggle over the Farm Security Administration in World 
War II is recounted by Grant McConnell in The Decline of Agrarian De- 
mocracy (Berkeley, 1953). The intellectual background of the New Deal is 
interpreted by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in The Age of Roosevelt, vol. I: 
The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933, (Boston, 1956). Alfred W. Gris- 
wold, in his Farming and Democracy (New Haven, 1952), traces the life 
history of the agrarian myth that was upheld by the back-to-the-landers. 
Rexford G. Tugwell, in a series of articles and in his The Democratic Roose- 
velt (Garden City, N.Y., 1957), has proved that an economist can write 
interesting history. His insights into the Roosevelt personality and into the 
development of the New Deal program are among the best that have yet 


Aberdeen Gardens, 113, 162, 167, 173, American Federation of Labor, 101, 170, 

201-202, 217, 334 
Ackerman, Frederick L., 69-70 
Adams, Henry C., 74 
Adams, Thomas, 64, 68, 70, 280 
Agar, Herbert, 27 
Agger, Eugene E., 155, 247 
Agrarianism, 11-12, 24-27, 44-45, 51-52, 

96-97, 257, 294-295 
Agricultural Adjustment Administration, 

80, 94, 96, 134, 143, 152, 154, 174 
Agricultural price supports, 78 
Agricultural supervision, 189-191, 286- 

287, 291 
Agriculture, Department of, 7, 55, 57, 

75, 79, 84, 94, 122, 134, 142, 152, 

155, 160, 171, 181-184, 194, 281, 


Agro-industrial communities, 260 
Albert Lea Homesteads (Minn.), 334 
Alexander, Will W., 154, 172, 181, 223, 


Alliance, N.J., 257 
Amana, Iowa, 13, 210 
American Country Life Association, 74 
American Economic Association, 74 
American Farm Bureau, 100, 123, 222- 

American Farm Economic Association, 


American Friends Service Committee, 

35-36, 98, 114, 193-194, 197, 238, 

244-245, 248 

American Liberty League, 250-251 
American Medical Association, 198-199 
Arizona Part-Time Farms, 334 
Arthur, Richard M., 238 
Arthurdale ( W. Va. ) , 237-255, 108, 1 14- 

116, 118, 122, 124-125, 136, 142, 159, 

164-165, 173, 177, 191, 194, 197, 204, 

207-208, 216-217, 233, 259, 273, 277, 

296, 332 
Arts and crafts, 195-196, 35, 45, 108, 

159, 191, 193-194, 267, 302 
Ashwood Plantation (S. Car.), 335 
Augur, Tracy B., 321 
Austin Homesteads (Minn.), 112, 162, 

193, 217, 333 
Australia, 43-46 

Back-to-the-land movement, 28-35, 12- 
24, 87, 93, 256-257, 259-260, 262, 
294, 296, 327 

Bailey, Josiah W., 117 

Baker, Jacob, 203 

Baker, Oliver E., 74 

Baldwin, Calvin B., 154, 224, 226, 228- 
229, 295 




Bankhead, John H., 56, 87-88, 100, 111, 
180, 183 

Bankhead, William B., 56, 87, 175, 183 

Bankhead Farms (Ala.), Ill, 162, 207, 
217, 333 

Bankhead- Jones Farm Tenant Act, 183- 
184, 220-221, 223-225, 227 

Banks, Nathaniel P., 14 

Barbour, W. Warren, 178, 274 

Baruch, Bernard, 245-246, 254 

Beauxart Gardens (Tex.), Ill, 162, 215, 

Bellamy, Edward, 61 

Belloc, Hilaire, 25 

Belmont, August, 66 

Berle, Adolf A., Jr., 181 

Bing, Alexander, 69-70 

Biro-Bidjan, Russia, 261 

Biscoe Farms (Ark.), 336 

Black, John D., 32, 74, 78-80, 82, 87, 

Black, Loring M., Jr., 33 
Bland, Schuyler O., 201 

Bliss, William D. P., 66 

Blitzer, Max, 262-265 

Blucher, Walter H., 321 

Borsodi, Ralph, 26-27, 97, 99, 107-108, 

123, 201, 203, 294, 327 
Bosque Farms ( N. Mex. ) , 334 
Brand, Charles J., 75 
Brown, Benjamin, 261-269, 273-274 
Brownlow, Louis, 100 
Brunner, Felix, 175-178 
Buckingham, James Silk, 61 
Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 75, 

78, 80, 98, 154-155, 157, 185 
Bureau of Biological Survey, 134 
Burlington Project (N. Dak.), 334 
Burnham, Daniel, 61 
Butler, Benjamin F., 15-16 
Byrd, Harry F., 163-164, 177, 224, 275 

Cadbury, George, 61 

Cahaba (Ala.), Ill, 162, 167, 202, 217, 

233, 333 
California Commission on Colonization 

and Rural Credits, 46 
California Land Settlement Board, 47, 


Garden, Philip V., 100 

Carver, Thomas Nixon, 20 

Casa Grande Farms (Ariz.), 169, 210- 

211, 277, 336 

Castle Hayne (N. Car.), 279 
Catholic rural movement, 14-15, 25; see 
also National Catholic Rural Life Con- 

Chapman, Oscar L., 94, 143 
Chase, Roy P., 223 
Chase, Stuart, 69 
Cherry Lake Farms (Fla.), 140, 137, 

192, 334 

Chicot Farms (Ark.), 335 
Christian-Trigg Farms (Ky.), 336 
Churchill, Henry, 321 
City planning: in Colonial America, 60; 
in the 19th century, 61; by Ebenezer 
Howard, 62-66; and the Garden City 
Association of America, 66; in spa- 
cious American cities, 67; and zoning, 
67; in World War I housing, 68; 
growth in the twenties, 68; and the 
New York Regional Plan, 68-69; by 
the Regional Planning Association, 
69; in the greenbelt towns, 304-315, 
321, 330-331 
Civil Works Administration, 80, 98, 133, 


Civilian Conservation Corps, 196 
Clapp, Elsie, 246-248 
Clark, John Bates, 74 
Clover Bend Farms (Ark.), 336 
Collective farms, 169-170, 182, 210-211, 

220-222, 224-229 
Collectivism, 3-4, 150, 160, 210-211, 

222, 225, 329-333 
Committee for Soil Surveys, 114 
Committee on the Bases of a Sound 

Land Policy, 79 
Commons, John R., 74, 77, 94 
Commonwealth Club of California, 46 
Communitarian colonies, 13 
Community idea, 102, 127, 305, 327-329 
Community management, 125, 156, 181, 
185, 189-190, 203-204, 212-213, 287- 

Congress of Industrial Organizations, 
225, 229 


Conservation movement, 41 

Consular Service, 157 

Consumer Distribution Corporation, 317 

Cook, Nancy, 242-243, 249 

Cooley, Harold D., 224-228 

Coolidge, Calvin, 56, 68, 78 

Cooper, Thomas, 94 

Co-operation, 202-211, 45, 50-52, 102- 
103, 128, 153, 158-159, 162-165, 168- 
170, 183, 189, 192-193, 197-198, 215, 
221, 238, 248, 251-253, 259, 261- 
262, 266-267, 270-271, 273, 276-277, 
287-290, 300-304, 317, 327, 330 

Co-operative farm colonies, 169-170, 
182, 210-211, 220-222, 224-229 

Council of Social Agencies, Morgan- 
town, W. Va., 238-239 

Country Life Commission, 74 

Cox, Edward E., 223 

Grosser, Robert, 49-50 

Cumberland Homesteads (Tenn.), 108, 
115, 164-165, 207-208, 213, 217, 332 

Dailey, Joseph L., 155 

Dalworthington Gardens (Tex.), HI, 
162, 215, 333 

Davis, Chester C., 76 

Dayton Homesteads (Ohio), 107-108, 
114, 121, 123,294,333 

Debt adjustment, 153 

Decatur Homesteads (Ind.), 113, 115, 
162, 173, 216, 333 

Delano, Frederic A., 65, 68, 71, 79 

Delhi, Calif., 47-48 

Delta Co-operative Farm (Miss.), 210- 

Desha Farms (Ark.), 336 

Dewey, John, 4, 191, 247 

Dirksen, Everett M., 230 

Distributists, 24-27, 294-296 

Division of Land Economics, Depart- 
ment of Agriculture, 75 

Division of Self-Help Co-operation, 203 

Domestic Allotment Plan, 78-79, 81-82, 

Dornbush, Adrian J., 195-196 

Douglas, Paul, 323 

Drummond Project (Wis.), 336 

Dubinsky, David, 263-265 


Duffy, F. Ryan, 199 

Duluth Homesteads (Wis.), 112, 162, 

217, 333 

Durham, Calif., 47-48 
Dyess Colony (Ark.), 137-138, 140, 

197, 233, 334 

Eddy, Sherwood, 210 

Educational programs, 192, 246-248, 
128, 142, 205, 286-287, 302 

Einstein, Albert, 262-263 

El Monte Homesteads (Calif.), 111-112, 
162, 216, 296, 333 

Ely, Richard T., 73-77, 79-80, 84 

Emergency Committee for Food Pro- 
duction, 223 

Emergency Fleet Corporation, 67, 118 

Emergency Relief Act of 1935, 142, 174 

Escambia Farms (Fla.), 336 

Ezekiel, Mordecai, 75 

Fairbury Farmsteads (Neb.), 334 
Fairway Farms experiment, 76-77 
Fall City Farmsteads (Neb.), 334 
Farm City Corporation of America, 280 
Farm Credit Administration, 134, 228, 


Farm Security Administration, 220-230, 
7, 137-138, 140, 146, 154, 160, 168, 
171-172, 182, 185, 189-190, 197-199, 
202, 204, 207-214, 217-219, 231-232, 
253, 255, 269, 272, 275-276, 287-294, 
301-302, 314, 318, 329-331 
Farm tenancy, 77, 180, 182-184, 221 
Farm Tenancy, Presidential Committee 

on, 180, 182-185, 227 
Farmers' Home Administration, 230, 293 
Farmers' Home Corporation, 184-185, 

227, 230 

Federal Arts Project, 196 
Federal Emergency Relief Administra- 
tion, 131-145, 7, 80, 154-155, 157, 
161, 169-170, 197, 201, 203, 218 
Federal Farm Board, 78-79 
Federal Land Bank, 114, 141, 297 
Federal Public Housing Authority, 7, 
218, 227-228, 231-232, 255, 273, 276, 
303, 322-323 



Federal Subsistence Homesteads Cor- 
poration, 106, 119, 123-124, 281 

Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, 134 

Federal Theatre and Music Division, 

Federal Works Agency, 322 

Filene, Edward, 317 

Flanders, Ralph E., 100-101 

Flannigan, John W., Jr., 226 

Flint River Farms (Ga.), 336 

Ford, Henry, 23-24, 27, 29 

Foreman, Clark, 101 

Forest Service, 110 

Foster, Philip W., 280 

Fourier, Charles, 13 

Fritts, Frank, 281 

Fulmer, Hampton P., 129 

Galpin, Charles J., 74 

Garden City Association (England), 

Garden City Association of America, 

Garden city planning, 61-75, 154, 159- 

160, 280, 305-311 
Gee's Bend Community (Ala.), 188, 

230, 336 

General Accounting Office, 118 
George, Henry, 61, 126 
Geraldson, Gerald, 158 
Goldstein, Philip, 273, 276 
Gorman, John J., 302 
Gould, Elgin R. L., 66 
Grand Island Farmsteads (Neb.), 334 
Granger Homesteads (Iowa), 294-304, 

113, 162, 217, 333 
Gray, Lewis C., 74-75, 80, 154 
Greeley, Horace, 14 
Green, Robert A., 33 
Green, William, 101, 170 
Greenbelt, Md., 310-312, 166, 176, 196, 

308-309, 313-325, 336 
Greenbelt towns, 305-325, 60, 69, 71, 

156, 160-161, 166-167, 173-174, 188, 

217-218, 221-233, 331 
Greenbrook, N.J., 173-175, 178-179, 

275, 308, 310, 319 
Greendale, Wis., 314-315, 166, 308, 310, 

316-321, 324, 336 

Greenhills, Ohio, 312-314, 166, 308, 

310, 317-321, 324, 336 
Greenwood Homesteads (Ala.), Ill, 

162, 217, 333 
Grimes, Bushrod, 239 

Hacker, Louis M., 124 

Hall, Bolton, 18 

Hancock, Frank, 229 

Handicraft program, 193-194, 35, 45, 

108, 159, 191, 302, 327 
Harding, Warren G., 20, 54, 75, 78 
Harriman, Henry L, 82, 93, 100 
Harris, Hayden B., 100 
Hattiesburg Homesteads (Miss.), Ill, 

162, 216-217, 231, 333 
Hayden, Eustace, 77 

Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society, 257 

Heilprin, Michael, 257 

Hendrickson, Roy, 98-99 

Hibbard, Benjamin H., 74 

Hightstown, N.J., see Jersey Homesteads 

Hildebrandt, Fred H., 179 

Hillman, Sidney, 229 

Hinds Farms (Miss.), 336 

Hirsch, Baron Maurice de, 258-259 

Hofflin, Elizabeth, 195 

Home supervision, 189-190, 285-286, 

Homestead associations, 215-218, 162- 

163, 209, 231, 254, 276, 302-303 
Hoover, Herbert, 35, 67, 78-79 
Hopkins, Harry, 133, 137, 142-143, 161 
Hormel, George A., 112 

Housing and Home Finance Agency, 

Housing experiments, 170-172, 241-242, 

248, 265 
Houston Gardens (Tex.), Ill, 115, 162, 

173, 215, 333 
Howard, Ebenezer, 61-65, 68, 71, 159, 

305, 312 

Howe, Frederic, 52, 157 
Howe, Louis M., 105, 122, 237, 240-243, 

246, 250 
Hyde, Arthur M., 32, 79 

Ickes, Harold L., 80, 93-94, 97, 100, 
106, 115-116, 119-122, 124-126, 142- 
143, 239-243, 245, 282 



Ickes, Mrs. Harold L., 245 

Indians, 200-201 

Individualism, 1-2, 6, 160, 225, 295- 

296, 330 
Industrial decentralization, 23-24, 62, 

80, 82, 84, 99, 105, 136, 159, 168, 240, 

251, 256, 259, 295, 327 
Industrial-type subsistence homesteads, 

110-113, 128, 131, 162-163, 184, 216, 

277, 296 
Institute of Land and Public Utility 

Economics, 75-76 
Interior, Department of the, 49-52, 55, 

57, 80, 98, 200, 324 
International Federation for Town and 

Country Planning and Garden Cities, 

64-65, 68, 281 

International Ladies' Garment Work- 
ers' Union, 263 

Iowa State College, 297-299, 301 
Ireland, John, 14-15 
Ironwood Homesteads (Mich.), 167, 

217, 336 
Irwinville (Ga.), 335 

Jacobstein, Meyer, 101 

James, Edmund J., 74 

Jefferson, Thomas, 12, 40, 60, 295 

Jeffersonianism, 1-6, 12, 25-27, 295 

Jersey Homesteads (N.J.), 256-276, 109, 
121, 145, 162, 171, 173, 178, 210, 
217, 233, 277, 296, 309, 332 

Jewish Agricultural Society, 257, 259- 

Jewish colonization, 256-262, 109 

Jewish Colonization Society, 258 

Johnson, Alvin, 124 

Johnson, Hiram W., 46 

Johnson, Hugh, 6, 78 

Jones, Marvin, 183 

Julian, William A., 100 

Kearney Homesteads (Neb.), 335 
Kelley, Fred J., 247 
Kinsey Flats (Mont), 336 
Kohn, Robert D., 69, 93 

Labor, Department of, 49-50 
La Cognina, Henry, 195 
La Follette, Mary, 195-196 

La Follette, Robert, 179, 195 

La Forge Farms (Mo.), 336 

LaGuardia, Fiorello H., 33 

Lake County Homesteads (111.), 112, 
162, 173, 217, 333 

Lake Dick (Ark.), 169, 210-211, 277, 

Lakeview Farms (Ark.), 336 

Land-leasing associations, 220-221, 225 

Land Policy Section, Agricultural Ad- 
justment Administration, 134, 143- 
144, 154 

Land-purchasing associations, 220-221, 

Land retirement, 78-83, 133-134, 142, 
153, 182 

Land settlement: in Colonial America, 
40, 60; in the 19th century, 40-41; 
on reclamation projects, 42, 54-55; 
in Australia, 43; as conceived by El- 
wood Mead, 44-45; in the California 
colonies, 46-48; as advocated by the 
Department of Labor, 49; and soldier 
settlement proposals, 50-54; and 
Southern reclamation colonies, 56; 
in the Lake States, 75; and Fairway 
Farms, 76-77; as a problem for farm 
economists, 78; and New Deal studies, 
79-80, 158 

Land tenure, 45-49, 77-78, 126-128, 
158-160, 168-170, 182, 215-216, 218, 
222, 225-228, 279, 286, 289-290, 302, 

Land-use planning, 77-83, 86, 99, 133- 
134, 143, 153, 155-156, 161, 182-184, 

Land Utilization Conference of 1931, 

Lane, Franklin K., 20, 50, 51-53 

Lansill, John S., 155, 308 

Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation, 

Letchworth, England, 63-65, 310, 321 

Lever, William H., 61 

Lewis, John L., 170 

Liberalism, 1-3 

Ligutti, Luigi, 25, 113, 294, 296-303 

Little Landers, 19-20 

Longview Homesteads (Wash.), 112, 
115, 162-163, 216, 296, 333 



Lonoke Farms (Ark.), 336 
Loup City Farmsteads (Neb.), 335 
Ludlow, Louis, 116-117, 201 
Lumsden, Edith R., 32, 87 
Lund, Mr. and Mrs. Haviland H., 20-21, 

McCarl, John R., 119-120, 128-129, 173 

McComb Homesteads (Miss.), Ill, 162, 
217, 333 

Macfadden, Bernarr, 31-32, 34, 87, 94, 
99, 114 

Mackaye, Benton, 69 

McKellar, Kenneth D., 117, 224 

McLean, Edward B., 309 

McLennan Farms (Tex.), 337 

McNary, Charles L., 31 

McNary-Haugen bills, 78 
MacRae, Hugh, 277-284, 32, 94, 99, 109, 
123, 289, 294 

MacRae colonies, 277-280 

Magnolia Homesteads (Miss.), Ill, 162, 

216-217, 231, 333 
Marland, Ernest W., 118 
Marshall, Alfred, 61 
Matanuska, Alaska, 137, 177 
Maverick, Maury, 179 
Mead, Elwood, 42-58, 80-81, 87, 94, 

Medicine and health services, 196-199, 

128, 205, 248, 266, 318 
Melvin, Bruce, 94, 98, 129, 200 
Migratory workers, 140, 153, 222, 224 
Mileston Farms (Miss.), 337 
Mitchell, George S., 229 
Mitchell, Morris R., 192 
Mondell, Frank W., 53 
Monroney, Mike, 323 
Morgan, Arthur E., 93 
Morgenthau, Henry, Jr., 82, 261 
Morgenthau, Mrs. Henry, Jr., 249 
Mormon villages, 13-14, 81, 100 
Moser, Guy L., 223 
Mounds Farms ( La. ) , 337 
Mount Olive Homesteads (Ala.), Ill, 

162, 171, 217, 333 

Mountaineer Craftsmen's Co-operative 
Association, 193-194, 244, 251, 253 
Mumford, Lewis, 68-69 

National Advisory and Legislative Com- 
mittee on Land Use, 80 

National Advisory Committee on Sub- 
sistence Homesteads, 100-101, 123 

National Catholic Rural Life Confer- 
ence, 25, 294-296, 302 

National Catholic Welfare Council, 225 

National Council of Churches, 225 

National Farmers' Union, 222, 225 

National Forward to the Land League, 

National Grange, 53, 100 

National Housing Agency, 218 

National Industrial Recovery Act, 88, 
93, 129 

National Land Use Planning Committee, 

National Park Service, 134, 217 

National Planning Board, 80 

National Recovery Administration, 83, 
174, 263 

National Resources Board, 142 

National Resources Committee, 66, 72, 

Negroes, 199-202, 101, 104, 113, 141, 
154, 167, 270 

Nolen, John, 61, 67, 94, 114, 280-281, 

Norris, Tenn., 113 

Norton, Charles D., 71 

Office of Indian Affairs, 134 
Olmsted, Frederick Law, 60-61 
O'Neal, Edward A., 100, 123, 224 
Orangeburg Farms (S. Car.), 337 
Osage Farms (Mo.), 337 
Owen, Robert, 13-14, 61 

Palmerdale Homesteads (Ala.), Ill, 

162, 217, 333 
Parker, Barry, 64 
Part-time farming, 80-82, 98, 105, 159, 

256, 260, 296 

Patten, Simon, 73-74, 84-85, 148 
Peek, George N., 78 
Pembroke Farms (N. Car.), 337 
Penderlea Homesteads (N. Car.), 277- 

293, 109, 114, 121, 123, 192, 199, 

207-208, 213, 230, 296, 332 


Phoenix Homesteads (Ariz.), Ill, 115, 

162, 216, 334 
Pickett, Clarence E., 35-36, 98, 105, 

108, 114, 193, 238-239, 248-249 
Piedmont Homesteads (Ga.), 109, 123, 


Pinchot, Gifford, 280 
Pine Mountain Valley (Ga.), 138-140, 

137, 192 
Planning, as a concept, 37-39, 59-60, 

96, 121, 153 

Plum Bayou (Ark.), 337 
Political Action Committee of the CIO, 


Post Office Department, 116 
Pragmatism, 4 
Prairie Farms (Ala.), 337 
Pressman, Lee, 155 
Progressive Movement, 326 
Provisional Commission for Jewish Farm 

Settlements in the United States, 262 
Public housing, 67, 105, 115, 170-172, 

303, 306, 311 
Public Housing Administration, 7, 232- 

233, 276, 323 

Public land policies, 40-42 
Public Works Administration, 80, 93, 

116, 119-120, 175, 307 
Purdom, Charles B., 69 
Pynchon, Charles E., 124-125, 282 

Radburn, N.J., 70, 76, 175, 242, 280, 
305, 310-311, 313-314, 319 

Randolph, Jennings, 118, 245 

Reclamation, 41-43, 54-57 

Red House (W. Va.), 136-137, 141, 
166, 204, 207, 334 

Reed, Daniel, 117 

Regional Plan of New York City, 68 

Regional Planning Association, 68-69, 
72, 93 

Religion, 199 

Relocation corporations, 221 

Resettlement Administration, 152-185, 
7, 80, 109-113, 125, 127-128, 130, 
134, 136, 140-146, 187-192, 194, 196- 
209, 214-215, 218-221, 224, 229, 245, 
248, 251-252, 256, 259-260, 263-275, 


284-289, 305, 307, 310-314, 316, 321, 
323, 328, 330-331 

Retirement homesteads, 141 

Rich, Robert F., 182 

Richardson, Charles L., 30 

Richton Homesteads (Miss.), 110, 333 

Roanoke Farms (N. Car.), 141, 201, 

Robinson, Charles M., 61 

Roosevelt, Franklin D.: and Jeffersonian 
ideas, 5; on agrarianism, 34, 83, 260; 
and Rexford G. Tugwell, 35, 148, 161, 
180-181, 215, 328; on planning, 37, 
70-71, 83; on public land policy, 41; 
on industrial decentralization, 82-84; 
and advocacy of rural-industrial 
towns, 83; and support of land-use 
planning, 83, 133; and New Deal 
agricultural planning, 83-84; and the 
Division of Subsistence Homesteads, 
99, 103, 115, 119; and the Resettle- 
ment Administration, 129, 142-144; 
and Pine Mountain Valley, 138-139; 
and the Farm Security Administra- 
tion, 225-226; and Arthurdale, 237, 
240, 243, 255; and Penderlea Home- 
steads, 282; and the greenbelt towns, 
307-308, 320-321; and experimenta- 
tion, 327, 330 

Roosevelt, Mrs. Franklin D., 36, 99, 103- 
105, 108, 114-115, 122, 193, 200, 
237-249, 251, 253, 255 

Roosevelt, N.J., 276 

Ropesville Farms (Tex.), 335 

Rosenwald Foundation, 198 

Roseworth Colony, 22 

Rural colonies: and socialist inspiration, 
13; and religious inspiration, 13-14; 
at Greeley, Colo., 14; and the Catholic 
Church, 14-15; as proposed by con- 
gressmen, 15-16; as initiated by the 
Salvation Army, 17-18; and the Little 
Landers Movement, 19-20; as pro- 
posed by the National Forward to 
the Land League, 20-21; at Rose- 
worth, 22; at Sunrise, Mich., 30; at 
Durham and Delhi, Calif., 46-47; 
established by the Division of Sub- 
sistence Homesteads, 109-110; estab- 



Rural colonies ( cont . ) 

lished by the Federal Emergency 
Relief Administration, 136-141; es- 
tablished by the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration, 167-170; established by 
Jewish immigrants, 256-260; estab- 
lished by Hugh MacRae in North 
Carolina, 277-280 

Rural-industrial communities, 132, 135- 

Rural rehabilitation, 133, 135, 143, 153, 
155, 157, 159-160, 168, 178-179, 182- 
184, 197-198, 220-221, 225, 227, 
256, 260 

Rural Rehabilitation, Division of, 133- 
136, 142, 144 

Rural rehabilitation corporations, 134- 
135, 141, 144, 154, 161, 264, 270 

Rural resettlement, 141, 153, 155-156, 
159, 161, 167-170, 182, 218 

Ruskin, John, 61 

Russell, George (or A. E.), 81 

Russell, William, 247 

Ryan, John A., 101 

Sabine Farms (Tex.), 337 

Saginaw Valley Farms (Mich.), 337 

St. Francis River Farms (Ark.), 335 

St. Helena, N. Car., 278 

Sale of communities, 214-220, 162-163, 

220, 223, 228-233, 255, 275-276, 292- 

293, 303, 322-325 
Salt, Titus, 61 
Salvation Army, 17-18, 30 
Salvation Army colonies, 17-18 
Sam Houston Farms (Tex.), 337 
San Fernando Homesteads (Calif.), Ill, 

162, 216, 334 
Schafer, John C., 34 
Schall, Thomas D., 118 
Schmiedeler, Edgar, 32 
Schnurr, Mae A., 32 
School garden movement, 17 
Schurz, Carl, 41 
Scott, William D., 22 
Scottsbluff Farmsteads (Neb.), 335 
Scrugham, James G., 87-88 
Scuppernong Farms (N. Car.), 210, 335 

Settler selection, 186-188, 45-46, 55, 
115, 126, 141, 215, 244, 279, 285- 
286, 297, 299, 316 

Shenandoah Homesteads (Va.), 113, 
163-164, 333 

Sheppard, Morris, 67 

Sioux Falls Farmsteads (S. Dak.), 335 

Skyline Farms (Ala.), 207-208, 335 

Smith, Alfred E., 69 

Smith, Joseph, 14 

Smith, Russell, 223 

Smythe, William E., 19-20, 22 

Social planning, 186, 193, 211, 256, 
272-273, 300, 317, 329-330 

Soil Conservation Service, 152 

Soldier settlement, 21, 50-54 

Soule, George, 101 

South Sioux City Farmsteads (Neb.), 

Southard, Keith, 159 

Southern agrarians, 25-26 

Southern reclamation movement, 56 

Spillman, William J., 75, 78-79 

Stafford, William H., 33 

Stein, Clarence S., 69-70, 305, 306, 319 

Stranded communities, 108-109, 131, 
136, 164-166, 188, 203, 205, 239, 251 

Sublimity Farms ( Ky. ) , 336 

Subsistence homesteads, 86-130, 11, 
18, 26, 32-34, 45, 80, 82, 131, 140, 
142, 144, 156, 159, 161-162, 164, 
167, 186, 203, 214-218, 231-232, 
238-239, 246, 250, 256, 260, 262, 
272, 280-282, 294, 296, 300, 319, 327 

Subsistence Homesteads, Division of, 
98-130, 7, 13, 26, 80, 135-136, 141- 
145, 154, 156-157, 161, 163-164, 167, 
169, 172-173, 187, 191, 194, 197, 200- 
203, 216-217, 237, 239-240, 243, 244- 
246, 248-251, 256, 262-264, 277, 280- 
284, 289, 296, 297-299, 328 

Suburban resettlement, 155-157, 167, 
218, 305-309, 322 

Sunrise Co-operative Community, 30, 

Swope, Gerard, 251 

Taber, Louis J., 100 
Tarver, Malcolm C., 224 


Taussig, Charles A., 181 

Taylor, Carl C., 98, 122, 155, 281, 297 

Taylor, Henry C., 74-76 

Taylor, John, 12 

Tenant-purchase programs, 77, 180, 
183-184, 225, 227 

Tennessee Valley Authority, 93, 113, 
167, 179, 305, 321, 330 

Terrebonne Plantation (La.), 169-170, 
210, 336 

Three Rivers Gardens (Tex.), Ill, 162, 
215, 231, 334 

Tiverton Farms (S. Car.), 337 

Tolley, Howard, 75 

Torrance, Jared S., 66 

Townes Farms (Ark.), 337 

Transylvania Farms (La.), 337 

Trumann Farms (Ark.), 337 

Tufts, James H., 77 

Tugwell, Rexford G.: and collectivism, 
6, 202; and Franklin D. Roosevelt, 
34-35, 143-144; on agricultural plan- 
ning, 73-74, 84-86; on national eco- 
nomic planning, 86; and the sub- 
sistence homesteads communities, 94, 
100, 163-166, 295; and the origins of 
the Resettlement Administration, 142- 
144; character and economic theory, 
146-152, 164-165, 295, 328-329; and 
the policies of the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration, 153-160, 194, 215, 229, 
330; and other New Deal agencies, 
160-161; and resettlement commu- 
nities, 166-171, 174-176; on housing 
methods, 170-171; and resignation 
from the Resettlement Administra- 
tion, 171, 180-181; and unpopular- 
ity, 175-176, 180; and congressional 
friends, 179; and farm tenancy, 180, 
182; on co-operation, 202, 204, 300- 
301; and class feelings, 221; and the 
Farm Security Administration, 225, 
228, 230; and Jersey Homesteads, 
263, 265, 268; and the greenbelt 
towns, 305-307, 319-320 

Tupelo Homesteads (Miss.), Ill, 162, 
216-217, 334 

Twentieth Century Fund, 198 

Two Rivers Farmsteads (Neb.), 335 


Tygart Valley Homesteads (W. Va.), 
108, 114-115, 136, 164-165, 206-208, 
212, 231, 332 

United Mine Workers, 170 

United States Employment Service, 170 

United States Extension Service, 105, 

134, 160, 228, 259 

United States Housing Corporation, 67 
United States Public Health Service, 197 
Unwin, Raymond, 64, 68, 70, 280, 321 

Vacant-lot gardens, 17, 29 
Valiant, Margaret, 196 
Vandenberg, Arthur, 117 
Veblen, Thorstein, 74, 148 

Wads worth, James W., 53 

Wakefield, Edward G., 61 

Walker, John O., 319 

Wallace, Henry A., 76, 82, 84, 94, 142, 
152, 180, 182, 185, 196 

Wallace, Henry C., 57-58, 75, 78, 82 

Waring, Bernard G., 101 

Warren, George F., 77, 83 

Weltner, Philip, 101 

Welwyn, England, 64-66 

West Virginia University, 238-239, 242, 
244, 247 

Westbrook, Lawrence, 132-133, 135- 
137, 142 

Wester, Otto, 195 

Westmoreland Homesteads (Pa.), 108, 
145, 164-165, 205-208, 213, 232, 332 

Whitaker, Charles H., 69 

Wichita Gardens (Tex.), Ill, 162, 215, 

Wichita Valley Farms (Tex.), 335 

Williams, David, 132-133, 135-136, 138 

Williams, Ralph C., 198-199 

Wilson, Milburn L.: and the Mormon 
colonies, 13; on agricultural planning, 
73, 121; biographical data, 76-77; and 
Fairway Farms, 76-77; on the do- 
mestic allotment system, 79, 81, 82; 
on land utilization, 80-81, 83; on 
agrarianism, 81, 295; and ideas on 
subsistence homesteads, 81-82; and 
New Deal agricultural policy, 82-84, 



Wilson, Milburn L. (cont.) 

86; philosophical outlook, 94-97; and 
policies of the Division of Subsistence 
Homesteads, 97-105, 109, 112, 114, 
127-128, 135, 193; and end of work 
in the Division of Subsistence Home- 
steads, 110, 115, 120, 122, 124-125; 
and ideas on decentralized adminis- 
tration, 119-121; on co-operation, 
202-203; as Undersecretary of Agri- 
culture, 207; and Arthurdale, 245; 
and trip to Russia, 261; and Jersey 
Homesteads, 262-263, 267; and green- 
belt towns, 319 

Wilson, William B., 49 

Wilson, Woodrow, 50-51 

Wise, Stephen S., 262, 274 

Wolf Creek (Ga.), 335 

Woodbine, N.J., 258-259 

Woodlake (Tex.), 132, 135, 141, 166, 

218, 335 

Woodruff, Roy O., 177 
Work, Hubert, 55 
Workers' Aim Association, 265, 268 
Works Progress Administration, 7, 137- 

139, 144, 160-161, 170, 173, 196, 265 
Wright, Hendrick B., 15 
Wright, Henry, 69-71, 175, 305, 310 

Zeuch, William E., 197, 203 

Recent books published for the American Historical Association 
from the income of the Albert J. Beveridge Memorial Fund 

By Neil A. McNall 


By Glyndon G. Van Deusen. 



By Clarence L. Ver Steeg. 


1795-1805. By Bradford Perkins. 

1691-1780. By Robert E. Brown. 



By Arthur Menzies Johnson. 

1707-1783. By Ian Charles Cargill Graham. 


By Paul W. Schroeder. 

By Albert Castel. 

1860-1901. By Clark C. Spence. 

IN MEXICO, 1867-1911. By David M. Pletcher. 


By Paul K. Conkin.